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Anne Waldschmidt

The Cultural Model of Dis/ability as an Analytical Tool. Key Assumptions, Strengths, and Weaknesses (13.11.2018)

Drawing on the approach of disability studies this lecture claims the relevance of culture as an analytical category for the study of disability. It starts with differentiating several fields of research that focus on disability; then it explores the notion of culture. Next, it appreciates the social model of disability, sketches its history and resulting debates. It also provides an overview on earlier attempts of conceptualizing a cultural studies approach to disability. Further, it offers an analytical perspective that uses the concept of ‘dis/ability,’ analyses impairment, disability and normality as ‘empty signifiers,’ views dis/ability as naturalized and embodied difference, and understands this category as effected by symbolic orders, bodily practices and social institutions. Additionally, referring to the debate on independent living for persons with disabilities as an example, the lecture will highlight the heuristic value of the cultural model of dis/ability for both research and practice by describing guiding questions resulting from individual, social, and cultural models of disability. It concludes by discussing possible pitfalls of a cultural studies approach to dis/ability.

Main Research InterestsAnne Waldschmidt

  • Cultural and political sociologies of 'dis/ability'
  • Body sociology
  • Contemporary disability history
  • Political participation of persons with disabilities
  • Dispositif theory and discourse analysis

Publications (selected)

  • With Anne Klein and Miquel Tamayo Korte: Das Wissen der Leute. Bioethik, Alltag und Macht im Internet. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften 2009.
  • Selbstbestimmung als Konstruktion. Alltagstheorien behinderter Frauen und Männer. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften 2012.
  • With Gabriele Lingelbach (Hrsg.): Kontinuitäten, Zäsuren, Brüche? Lebenslagen von Menschen mit Behinderungen in der deutschen Zeitgeschichte.Frankfurt/Main, New York: Campus 2016.
  • With Hanjo Berressem and Moritz Ingwersen (Eds.): Culture – Theory – Disability. Encounters between Disability Studies and Cultural Studies. Bielefeld: transcript 2017.
  • With Rune Halvorsen, Bjørn Hvinden, Julie Beadle Brown, Mario Biggeri and JanTøssebro (Eds.): Understanding the Lived Experiences of Persons with Disabilities in Nine Countries. Active Citizenship and Disability in Europe Volume 2. Abingdon, London, New York: Routledge 2018.
  • Disability – Culture – Society: Strengths and Weaknesses of a Cultural Model of Dis/ability. In: ALTER: European Journal of Disability Research | Revue Européenne de Recherche sur le Handicap, 12(2) 2018, pp. 67-80.


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