Refusing Able(ness): A Preliminary Conversation about Ableism

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Abstract

Feminist Rosemary Tong long ago alluded to the profound possibilities of using critical disability studies theory to recomprehend and respatialize the landscape of thinking about race and gender as sites of signification. This piece presents a preliminary conversation in the emergent field of studies in ableism and desires to not only problematize but refuse the notion of able(ness). Our attention is on Ableism’s production and performance. Such an exploratory work is indebted to conversations already commenced by Campbell, Hughes and Overboe.

My approach is three pronged. Firstly I explore the problem of speaking/thinking/feeling – about the Other (in this case persons referred to as ‘disabled people’) and the ‘extraordinary’ Other, the ‘Abled’. This conversation is captured under the banner of “The Ableist Project”. Here I argue it is necessary to shift the gaze of contemporary scholarship away from the spotlight on disability to a more nuanced exploration of epistemologies and ontologies of ableism. As part of this project of exposure my second task then will be to tease out the strands of what can be called “Ableist Relations”, including the effects of the compulsion to emulate ableist regulatory norms. Finally, as part of a commitment to make the necessary connections between theory and practice, I look at the tasks ahead in the refusal of Ability and the commitment to a disability/not-abled imaginary.
Original languageEnglish
JournalM/C Journal
Volume11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008

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