STUDY: Culture as Disability

Human abilities and disabilities are variable social constructions that derive from a culture's sense of development... more» more»
Common sense allows that persons unable to handle a difficult problem can be labeled "disabled." Social analysis shows that being labeled often invites a public response that multiplies the difficulties facing the seemingly unable. Cultural analysis shows that disability refers most precisely to inadequate performances only on tasks that are arbitrarily circumscribed from daily life. Disabilities are less the property of persons than they are moments in a cultural focus. Everyone in any culture is subject to being labeled and disabled. (McDermott & Varenne, 1995)
The world's definitions are one thing and the life one actually lives is quite another. One cannot allow oneself, nor can one's family, friends, or lovers--to say nothing of one's children--to live according to the world's definitions: one must find a way, perpetually, to be stronger and better than that. (James Baldwin, The Evidence of Things Not Seen, 1985)