“Disability Theory is just the book we’ve been waiting for. Clear Tobin Siebers persuasively argues that disability studies transfigures basic. Disability Theory, Tobin Siebers (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, pages). Reviewed by Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson, Miami University of Ohio. Tobin Siebers’. “Disability Theoryis just the book we’ve been waiting for. Tobin Siebers in some of the major debates of the last thirty years in critical and cultural theory.

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Disability Theory

Noble intent but to what effect? Clear, cogent, compelling analyses of the tension between the ‘social model’ of disability and the material details of impairment; of identity politics and unstable identities; of capability rights and human interdependence; of disability and The latter are a few of the examples that Siebers uses to show the complex nature of disability and the inadequacy of a one-size-fits-all definition of the term. This latter tendency, what Mitchell and Snyder in an earlier book call “narrative prosthesis,” is now subjected to ethical and philosophical critique that posits a realist ethos grounded in a revitalized identity politics.

It is the hyperindividualization of disability, Siebers believes, that makes disabled people so vulnerable — physically, socially, and politically. This is a book with a clear agenda: Thus, rather than allowing ourselves to think in terms of inclusion and exclusion, a dichotomy that always presupposes a group in the center holding power over a group in the margins, Siebers suggests thinking in terms of accessibility and inaccessibility Siebers Copyright and Terms of Use Disability and Representation: Disability and Representation Changing the Cultural Conversation.

That is small comfort for a person experiencing chronic pain or receiving dirty looks when boarding theorj bus or being denied access to a job, courtroom, or medical insurance. The strength of social constructionism lies in its dual understanding that we cannot view bodies outside of culture, and that this insight, in and of itself, dusability liberating.

Thus, when disabled people rely upon others for care or assistance, it is considered a loss of dignity and a source of shame. Coleman Brown Looking into Language: About Welcome to my blog!

What’s Wrong with This Picture? Keywords disability and minority identity, politics of disaiblity, complex embodiment, disability studies, sexuality, gender, disability, disability theory, identity politics and disability. It is a good example of Siebers’ “realist” position in action. Does the fact that our culture views disability as a feature of individuals work against seeing disability and humanity as synonymous?

For the first case, he provides an important historical survey of how identity politics rose to influence during the s and s, and then fell from favor due to the rise of social constructionist theories. As for social construction, Siebers recognizes that although experience is constructed through social attitudes and prejudices, the identities produced within such conditions are “real” and valid for purposes of public policy, community formation, and jurisprudence.


Tobin Siebers, Disability Theory | Davidson | Disability Studies Quarterly

Such a representation helps to create an environment in which disabled people are easily victimized:. The book uses such examples sparingly but to good effect, including personal anecdotes that position the author as someone who knows from experience. While Siebers does not specifically address the characterization of autism as an empathy disorder, he points out that the psychological literature is rife with the idea that disability and suffering nearly always considered synonymous render disabled people narcissistic; because of their impairments, the literature alleges, disabled people are self-absorbed, trapped in a world of their own, uninterested in anyone else, and unable to love Siebers Disability Theory rescues the historic body of disability from its diaspora into theories that require bodily difference without subjects attached.

Our society, he notes, represents ability as a generalized human trait; in fact, ability is one of the markers of humanity Siebers At the same time, he advances the emerging field of disability studies by putting its core issues into contact with signal thinkers in cultural studies, literary theory, queer theory, gender studies, and critical race theory.

Tobin Siebers’ essays have been at the forefront of this critique, and this book gathers them together in what is one the most important contributions to disability studies since Lennard Davis’ Enforcing Normalcy.

Visit the author’s website at: This is a book with a clear agenda: Clear, cogent, compelling analyses of the tension between the ‘social model’ of disability and the material details of impairment; of identity politics and unstable identities; of capability rights and human interdependence; of disability and law, disability as masquerade, disability and sexuality, disability and democracythey’re all here, in beautifully crafted and intellectually startling essays.

Comments Policy I have a very simple and intuitive comments policy: He notes that in Foucault’s distinction between the pre-modern soldier and the modern “docile” soldier, there lies an ableist ideology that prefers the former as a default. For which social body is it inaccessible? And so we must ask the questions: One way that he provides texture to his theoretical excursions is by introducing what he calls “dossiers” into his text at various points to interrupt and provide illustration for what he is saying at a local level.

Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus. Realists, like social constructionists, believe that reality is socially produced. He is highly critical of adapting the identitarian position that reduces all persons with disabilities to a single class, but he also feels that without some sense of collective identity, claiming rights under federal and state protections will be difficult.


Narcissism, much like the autism, becomes an expression of a pathologized individualism. For me, one of the most powerful aspects of the concept of the social body is that it makes all bodies visible. On behalf of which social body has a space been made accessible? But because he is a superb reader of texts court cases, avant garde art, newspaper and media reports, literary history he can bring much needed local detail to these theoretical arcanae.

This book has two audiences as its focus: Moreover, a disability identity is not about embracing suffering, disabiliy about understanding, analyzing, and critiquing the social structures that cause it Siebers In answering these questions, Siebers explores two related lines of thought.

Siebers adapts their views to show that yes, disability exists as a set of social constructions but once that reality is made it takes on a “shape, politics, and history that belongs to the realm of human action” Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless. Most non-disabled persons seldom think about disabled people having sex, and many feel that disabled persons should not participate at all in reproduction.

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With the paradigm of the social body in mind, I now look at a building with stairs but no wheelchair ramp, and I see a building designed for a social body that can easily walk on two legs. The victim becomes responsible for the violence that someone else perpetrates.

As I read and teach new scholarship on disability studies I see the same rhetorical sleights of hand being used to deconstruct ableist ideology without much critical reflection on the sieberx that underlie this endeavor. Tobin Siebers persuasively argues that disability studies transfigures basic assumptions about identity, ideology, language, politics, social oppression, and the body.

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