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Title: Impairment, disablement and identity
Author: Watson, Nicholas Thomas
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2001
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Disability is a contested concept. There is a little agreement within the social sciences on who disabled people are, what causes disability or on the impact of disability on identity and identity formation. On the one hand, there are those within medical sociology who see disability arising as the outcome of impairment and focus their research and theorising on the trouble that an impairment causes for disabled people. This understanding is based on a normative definition. On the other hand, there are those within disability studies who argue that disablement arises as a consequence of a society that is organised in a way that excludes people with impairments; they focus their research on societal and environmental barriers. In the latter paradigm, any focus on impairment itself is seen as a diversion from the 'real' problem: the discrimination and oppression of disabled people. The impact of impairment, the personal experience of disablement and issues of identity are ignored in favour of radical rhetoric. There is a theoretical deficit at the heart of this approach. In order to address this lacunae the experiences and views of disabled people themselves must inform theoretical developments. This study involved in-depth analysis of data generated by semi-structured interviews with 28 men and women with a physical impairment. The analysis shows how, for many of the participants in this study, having an impairment did not constitute trouble; impairment has become part of their embodied being. It also shows how disabled people are not an homogenous group, but are individuals. Their understandings, identity and experiences are fluid, contextualised and situated. There is no such thing as 'the disabled' and many reject an identity posited on such criteria. Their main commonality is a common experience of discrimination and oppression. How this discrimination is interpreted is individual; further, impairment and disablement are linked and should not be seen as separate entities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available