, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 224–242 | Cite as

Heidegger, subjectivity, disability

  • Thomas Abrams
Original Article


In this article, I ask what a Heideggerian analysis of subjectivity can do for disability politics, and to the investigation of subject formation more generally. I begin by outlining the historically dominant ‘social model of disability’, which frames disability as a form of oppression. In the section ‘Michael Oliver and the politics of disablement’, I suggest that a re-reading of Heidegger on subjectivity allows us to chart aspects of disabled personhood missed by the social model. Heidegger argues human existence (Dasein) defies subjectivity; I argue it is more primordial, but that the two can co-exist, particularly when disabled persons shape their own subjectivity. I provide a threefold ontological structure, Dasein-Mitdasein-Subjectivity, sensitive to the politics of subject formation. Finally, I turn to two cases of ontological disability politics, those of the French Muscular Dystrophy Association and global thalidomider politics, to show how my reading of subjectivity is preferable to the social model’s.


Heidegger disability phenomenology ontological politics subject formation 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Abrams
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social Justice EducationOntario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of TorontoTorontoCanada

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