Black bodies, white bodies; male bodies, female bodies; young bodies, old bodies; beautiful bodies, broken bodies - right bodies and wrong bodies. Historically, our bodies have framed our futures and explained our past; our bodies write our stories. But it is not our bodies per se which write the story; rather it is the way in which we, as a society, construct our bodies which shapes our history and our future.
Bodily difference has for centuries determined social structures by defining certain bodies as the norm, and defining those which fall outside the norm as 'Other'; with the degree of 'Otherness' being defined by the degree of variation from the norm. In doing this, we have created an artificial 'paradigm of humanity' into which some of us fit neatly, and others fit very badly. Life outside the paradigm of humanity is likely to be characterized by isolation and abuse.
The story we have recorded of the lives of people with disability is a story of life lived on the margins.
For people with disability, their history is largely a history of silence. The lives of people with disability have not only been constructed as 'Other', but frequently as 'the Other' of 'the Other'. People with disability are marginalized even by those who are themselves marginalized.
While it is difficult to know where our constructions end and the reality begins (for the constructions shape the reality), it is clear that other stories and constructions which might have created different realities have been selectively 'forgotten'. Models of inclusion - for example, among the Maori in Aotearoa where it is suggested that disability is accepted as being normal - have been erased from Western disability history. Disability activists are now facing the task of re-creating a culture which celebrates and embraces difference. In...