Learning about Disability

I’m taking a disability studies class this term as part of my social work program. I study part-time, online. I thought I would post some of my reflections on reading articles for the class. People living with FM and CFS/ME don’t always think of themselves as ‘disabled’, but the way the world is organized and the way these conditions affect our bodies certainly mean we do live with a disability.

Reflections on Eli Clare’s (2001) Stolen bodies, reclaimed bodies:

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I found that this poetic article illuminated the physicality of the experience of living with a disability in a way that I had never encountered before. Weaving the author’s personal experiences along with disability theory was incredibly effective in making the central point of the article. Clare argues that the disability rights movement identifies the social and material conditions that oppress disabled people as the locus of change, rather than the individual’s impairments of the body. However, in so doing, the body and somatic experience often gets lost in progressive disability discourse. Clare makes the point that our bodies are a key part of our identities, and mediate our engagement with the external world.

I have never thought about the social model of disability in these terms before. It makes sense to me, though, both intellectually and viscerally. I identify as a person living with a disability, and one component of my experience is chronic pain. Chronic pain, from my perspective, never fits neatly with the assertion by the social model of disability that the only location of problem and change in society. My relationship with my body, the pain that I feel every day, is also a site of struggle, and a challenge in my life, alongside the social oppression that I face as a disabled person. Disability, then, for me, is about both a relationship with myself and the external world. This article provided me with new ways to understand the internal and external realities of disability. Clare connects one with the other, as part of the disability rights movement; “without our bodies, without the lived bodily experience of identity and oppression, we will not truly be able to reconfigure the world”

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