Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Disability Studies Lecture 

Helen Meekosha, Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of New South Wales spoke tonight on 'Communicating the relevance of disability studies in a new millennium.' The WA Disability Collective organised the night, hosted by UWA's Institute of Advanced Studies. I thought about summarising the talk but then I re-read the abstract and - you'll get the idea:

The late 20th century saw the study of disability move beyond the problematic allocation of the body to the pre-social realm and disability scholars argued that disability is a social condition generated by the same types of power relations that give social meaning
to race, gender and sexuality. Disability has variously been described as a relationship of oppression, a human rights issue, a discourse of liberation, a new social movement, an identity and an emerging culture.

The politics of knowledge creation has become a critical dimension of disability activism, yet higher education remains overwhelmingly silent on disability, apart from within medical and rehabilitation discourses.

To this end, critical disability studies has begun to make significant inroads into the unstated assumptions of normalcy that underpin enlightenment thinking, as well as challenging postmodern discourse.

This paper introduces some of these interventions, and argues, that higher education in Australia must move beyond its limited scope, to incorporate disability as part of a complex perception of difference within and between societies.

Note: My paragraph breaks might not be true to the original, bit hard to tell.

Universities in Australia offer courses related to disability and health, or disability and rehabilitation. Few courses are offered that look critically at disability and how people with disabilities are often excluded from mainstream society, rather than embraced as a normal part of it. Someone suggested that what unites people with disabilities, despite all of the differences between groups and individuals, is exclusion.

I'm sorry that more people didn't show up. Most of the attendees came from academic backgrounds or worked with disability organisations. I think I might have been the only person from the 'disability public' who didn't have an academic interest. (This could explain how I got caught talking to a friend about Woody from Jordan's Crossing's dimples at dinner afterwards. Blind chick conversation, you know - it all started with tandem cycling and the relative weight of front riders... Good bruschetta but.)

I did hear more about the draft UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which I'd received via e-mail but hadn't read, so I wasn't a dead loss.

And I've blogged all about it, so maybe somewhere someone will think about studying disability, rather than studying how to make people who have disabilities as 'fit' and 'normal' as possible.

Hi Dee,
Thanks for this, I really appreciated you posting this.

I started posting a comment here about visibility and normalisation, then ended up blogging about it instead because I wanted to include a photo. Here's the link Rss readers and spazzes
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