Attempting to Distinguish Impairment from Disability in the Bioarchaeological Record: An Example from DeArmond Mound (40RE12) in East Tennessee

  • Jonathan D. Bethard
  • Elizabeth A. DiGangi
  • Lynne P. Sullivan
Chapter
Part of the Bioarchaeology and Social Theory book series (BST)

Abstract

In bioarchaeological contexts involving interpretations of impairment and disability, scholars can benefit by engaging with the literature from other fields, particularly Disability Studies (DS), to better understand the complexities and nuances of these terms. In this chapter, definitions of impairment and disability are introduced from a number of perspectives, including academic scholarship, as well the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). While impairment has typically been identified by bioarchaeologists as paleopathological in nature, some frameworks from DS expand this definition to include social components. The nuances of these terms are applied to an archaeological case study from a Mississippian site in East Tennessee and describe the remains of a woman who presented a lifelong musculoskeletal impairment of her upper and lower limbs. This impairment would have restricted her ability to move around the landscape in the same way as her peers. Despite these physical differences, her mortuary treatment was not markedly different from other members in her community and does not appear to fit a recent definition of deviant burial practices proposed by Tsaliki (2008). While mortuary data are vital to better understand impairment and disability in the past, bioarchaeologists must be careful to not over interpret the subtle, and simultaneously, marked differences between these two concepts.

Keywords

Disability Impairment Mississippian period Enchondromatosis Osgood–Schlatter’s disease Cartilaginous dysplasia DeArmond mound Works Progress Administration (WPA)/Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) excavations 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the editors of this volume for extending the invitation for this contribution and their thoughtful critiques and patience during the review process. We also would like to thank the anonymous reviewers who provided useful feedback on a draft of this chapter. We thank the University of Alabama Museums for granting permission to reprint the mortuary image of the individual from Moundville. We acknowledge the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture and its employees for providing access to the TVA collection. Drs. Benjamin Auerbach, Jane Buikstra, Mercie DiGangi, Linda Klepinger, Donna McCarthy, Megan Moore, Timothy Pauketat, and Maria Smith gave valuable advice and feedback during the initial stages of the skeletal analysis, as did the late Dr. Don Ortner. We thank Shannon D. Koerner for kind permission to utilize the map presented in Fig. 13.1. JDB would like to thank Aviva Cormier for her helpful insight and comments related to this topic while this chapter was being written.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan D. Bethard
    • 1
  • Elizabeth A. DiGangi
    • 2
  • Lynne P. Sullivan
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyBinghamton UniversityBinghamtonUSA
  3. 3.McClung Museum of Natural History and CultureUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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