Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Conceptualising Disability

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Disability Studies

DESCRIPTION This study-unit introduces the students to the main ideas of disability studies. It is considered to be an introductory study-unit to set the students thinking on issues of disability from a socio-political perspective. The first part of the study-unit introduces the students to the main models of disability as useful frameworks to help society gain an understanding of disability. Some of the models that will be discussed during the lectures include, the individual model, the medical model, the social model, the relational model, the human rights model and the affirmative model. The second part of the study-unit introduces the students to notions in the philosophy of disability, whereby students will be guided to critically scrutinise important concepts in disability studies, such as power, the body, vulnerability and care through the works of Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, and feminist theorists.

Study-Unit Aims:

The study-unit aims to highlight and show the shift from the individual models of disability to a social construction of disability. It also aims to give a historical perspective of the concept of impairment and disability and how different models of disability have influenced the discourse about disability. This study-unit also aims to give a detailed description of the models of disability, including the affirmative model of disability, the relational model of disability, and the human rights model of disability, amongst others and how policies and legislation have been influenced by these models.

In addition, this study-unit aims to introduce the students to notions about disability from a philosophical perspective. This will be done through the work of Michel Foucault. The aim is to analyse the power of normalisation and the different ways in which power is exercised over bodies in societies. This will then lead to a consideration of how feminist theorists (Sandra Lee Bartky, Iris Marion Young, Susan Wendell) have built on and extended Foucault’s ideas to further consider the exercise of power on the body. The implications of their work on disability studies will be explored. Probing further on the notion of the body, the work of Judith Butler will be explored to show how her account of corporeal vulnerability and precariousness can inform the field of disability studies.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Describe and analyse the different models of disability and their critique, and how different countries have used such models in the last 35 years;
- Describe and analyse how different policies and legislation have made use of different models of disability;
- Have an understanding of the various basic literature on disability studies;
- Have a systematic and in-depth understanding of the definitions of disability;
- Describe and analyse the philosophical works of Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, and feminist theories, and their applications to disability studies;
- Critically analyse the power relations and their effects on bodies and identities.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Discuss the general ideas behind the concept of identity formation and how this applies to people with disability and disability studies;
- Evaluate and compare different historical moments which have given a voice to persons with disability;
- Explore and critically reflect on issues related to the disability issues;
- Sharpen the ability to think critically and 'outside the box' and to analyse current situations in relation to persons with disability;
- Be empowered to come forward with new insights and potential solutions to disability issues;
- Demonstrate critical theoretical rigour when discussing potential solutions to disability issues.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main texts on Disability and Models of Disability:

- Campbell, J., and Oliver, M. (1996).Disability Politics: Understanding Our Past, Changing Our Future. London: Routledge.
- Barnes, C., Barton, L., & Oliver, M. (2002). Disability Studies Today. Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Swain, J., French, S., Barnes, C., & Thomas, C. (2004). Disabling Barriers - Enabling Environments (2 nd ed.) London: Sage.
- Oliver, M. (1996). Understanding Disability: From Theory to Practice. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
- Barnes, C., & Mercer, G. (2003). Disability (Key Concepts). London: Wiley.
- Tremain, S. (Ed.). (2015). Foucault and the government of disability (2 nd ed.). Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.
- Albrecht, G.L., Seelman, K.D., & Bury, M. (Eds.). (2001). Handbook of disability studies. London: Sage.
- Marks, D. (1999). Disability: Controversial debates and psychosocial perspectives. London: Routledge.
- Barnes, C., & Mercer, G. (2010). Exploring disability (2 nd ed.). Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Goodley, D. (2011). Disability studies: An interdisciplinary introduction. London: Sage.
- Gustavsson, A., Sandvin, J., Traustadottir, R., & Tossebro, J. (2005). Resistance, reflection and change: Nordic disability research. Lund, Sweden: Studentlitteratur.
- Mallett, R., & Runswick-Cole, K. (2014). Approaching disability: critical issues and perspectives. London: Routledge.
- Swain, J., French, S., & Cameron, C. (2003). Controversial issues in a disabling society. Berkshire: Open University Press.

Main texts on the Philosophy of Disability:

- Sara Mills, Michel Foucault (Routledge Critical Thinkers) (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), especially chapters 2 & 4.
- Sandra Lee Bartky, “Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power,” in Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression (New York: Routledge, 1990), 63-82.
- Iris Marion Young, “Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment, Motility and Spatiality,” Human Studies Vol. 3 No. 2 (1980): 137-156.
- Susan Wendell, “Towards a Feminist Theory of Disability,” Hypatia Vol. 4 No. 2 (1989): 104-124.
- Judith Butler & Sunaura Taylor, “ Interdependence,” in Examined Life: Excursions with Contemporary Thinkers, ed. By Astra Taylor (New York and London: The New Press, 2009), 185-213.
- Stacy Clifford Simplican, “Care, Disability, and Violence: Theorizing Complex Dependency in Eva Kittay and Judith Butler,” Hypatia Vol. 30 No. 1 (2015): 217-233.
- Judith Butler, “Violence, Mourning, Politics,” Studies in Gender and Sexuality 4:1 (2013): 9-37.
- Eva Feder Kittay, Love’s Labor: Essays on Women, Equality, and Dependency (New York and London: Routledge, 1999), especially chapters 6 & 7.
- Catriona Mackenzie, Wendy Rogers, Susan Dodds (eds.), Vulnerability: New Essays in Ethics and Feminist Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014) chapters 7 & 8.
- Deborah Lupton, Medicine as Culture: Illness, Disease and the Body in Western Societies 2nd edition (London: Sage Publications, 2003), especially chapter 2.
- Lennard J. Davis ed., The Disability Studies Reader 4 th edition (New York and London: Routledge, 2013).


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM1 Yes 100%

Amy Joan Camilleri Zahra

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