Is it possible to create a politically engaged, contextual psychology of disability?

Watermeyer, Brian (2012-03)

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Until recently disability studies has ignored questions regarding the psychological nature of oppression. Proponents of the social model have viewed such concerns as diversionary, diluting their emphasis on material and economic barriers to inclusion. This paper argues that the discipline’s role of reflecting and interrogating disablism will remain incomplete and lacking in transformative power without undertaking a psychological conceptualisation of disabled personhood. Some prior attempts at elaborating the social model to include the psychological realm have been presented; these are critiqued, and argued to lack truly psychological conceptualisation. Preliminary ideas regarding a proposed psychology of disablism are presented. The focus of this work will be the exploration of bi-directional links between disablist ideology and disabled subjectivity, operationalised through interpersonal and institutional processes of lifelong socialisation. Reflections towards development of the under-theorised notion of internalised oppression are presented. Conclusions are that a combination of critical psychoanalytic insights and the participatory methods of liberatory and feminist psychology hold promise in driving disability transformation.

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