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Psychosocial resources to unpack disablism: global case studies, social psychoanalytic possibilities

Rebecca Lawthom, Manchester Metropolitan University
Co-author(s): Dan Goodley


Much of the theorising within Disability Studies is portrayed as being polarised between the social (structures) and the individual psyche (experiences). While there are notable exceptions to this splitting off of the social from the psychological (e.g. Marks, 1999, Thomas, 1999, Reeve, 2005) we propose utilising a psychosocial understanding that engages critically and seriously with the psychoanalytic. Here, we are interested in how social processes intersect and are shifted through subjectivity (and vice versa). Using the language of the social psychoanalytic, we argue that rather than projecting out structures or introjecting negative disablism, there is a transdisplinary approach which allows subjectivity to be theorised within the social context and milieu. In this sense it is possible to explore the merging of the individual and the social. We use transdisplinarity here to maximise theoretical possibility. To demonstrate this we take examples from a recently funded British Council bid which explores the possibility of decolonising disability studies in Malaysia ( The fusing of individual psychological understanding with the profoundly social is made more difficult in Global North spaces. Here, the bounded rational disabled individual is positioned in independence debates as a desired state. In Global South spaces, other opportunities are possible as alternative subjectivities come into play. Subjectivities here are firmly embedded in the family, community and society where interdependence is desired and expected.

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