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From Dis-Ability to Difference: Conceptual and Methodological Issues in the Study of Physical Disability

  • Christina Papadimitriou
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 68)

Abstract

This paper discusses conceptual and methodological concerns in the study of physical disability and the human body from the perspective of a phenomenologically informed sociology.1 The study of physical disability and the human body has claimed the attention of philosophers, social scientists, psychologists, physicians, public health administrators, insurers, and so forth, each of whom brings a unique disciplinary perspective as well as distinct research interests and goals. In this paper I identify theoretical and conceptual biases in the study of disability that: (1) tend to narrow its understanding to a unitary phenomenon, i.e., as a dysfunction (either patho- physiological or psychological) affecting only the individual; (2) hamper its conceptualization as a form of difference; and (3) restrict the ability of persons with disabilities to live independent and respectful lives. Further, I demonstrate how socio-political conceptions of disability raise many theoretical and practical questions regarding research, as well as fostering the uncritical use of notions of normality and difference.2 Contemporary research on disability and the human body is faced with a challenge: to describe and analyze the world of disability within its social, political and human contexts without perpetuating biased assumptions, ignoring bodily differences, and marginalizing the experience of disability.3 This paper suggests that a phenomenologically-informed sociology can help researchers meet this challenge. Instead of seeing able-bodied and dis-abled persons as separate and opposed, disabled embodiment may be conceived as a form of human diversity, thus moving towards an understanding of dis-ability as difference. This paper discusses how researchers can reach this understanding through the phenomenological technique of bracketing and by listening to the criticisms offered by disability advocates and writers.

Keywords

Physical Disability Disable Person Wheelchair User Empathic Understanding Meditation Technique 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Papadimitriou
    • 1
  1. 1.American College of ThessalonikiGreece

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