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Discoursing Disability; The Personal and Political Positioning of Disabled People in Talk and Textwork

Stephen Lee Hodgkins, University of Northampton / DITO


This qualitative inquiry presents a critical disability discourse analysis. Drawing on a framework of discourse analysis described by Potter and Wetherell (1987) the discursive function, construction and variation of 'disability' talk and textwork is critically considered. Analytical commentary is made on extracts from discussion groups, policy documents, publicity imagery and Hansard transcripts. Dilemmas of disclosure and identity are considered and explore 'disability' as an interpretative repertoire. The distortion of 'disabling barriers', in talk and policy documents is considered and highlights a recent colonisation of the social model of disability (UPIAS 1976). Hansard records of parliamentary debate of the Disabled Persons [Independent Living] Bill are drawn upon to explore issues concerning agency, autonomy, disabled body and dominant discourses of individualism. Disability is articulated as an object in, and for interaction and its construction linked to historical, social and political structures that regulate and sustain the human subject. The inquiry concludes by asserting a discursive mode of disablism. This considers the rejection of the disabled body as discursively constructed during interactive moments and is suggested as a useful driver for research and initiatives to expose and challenge everyday moments and practises that perpetuate the invalidation of the disabled body.

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