[This will be organized/ separated/ blocked out later] What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – the celebration of disability as an inherent part of the human condition is an affirmation of the difference in society – this solves their impact arguments – the celebration of categorical differences created by ableism is not an oppressive system, rather it allows for the disabled to reclaim their collective identities to achieve true potential
Tom Shakespeare, not THE Shakespeare, this guy has a PhD, a disability, and is a knighted sociologist, 1996, “DISABILITY, IDENTITY AND DIFFERENCE”, http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/Shakespeare/Chap6.pdf; AB
Traditional approaches to disability, highlighted above, could be considered to be essentialist. Differences, biological and sometimes psychological, separate disabled people from non-disabled people. Social approaches counter this essentialism by demonstrating how it is exclusionary policies, environmental barriers and a process of social oppression which create the category of disability. This is a social constructionist analysis. For example, it is suggested that the experience of disability varies at different times and in different cultural contexts. Political strategies focus on barrier removal. But between and within this dichotomy of essentialism and social constructionism there are debates which have been explored by feminists and queer theorists, and still await Disability Studies. For example, despite the seeming social constructionism, there is an inherent essentialism within disability politics, and indeed in the idea of disability identity.The celebration of disability pride is the celebration of difference, and the acceptance of difference: it is about subverting negative valuation and reclaiming disability.Nietzsche suggests: `A species comes to be, at type becomes fixed, in the long fight against essentially constant adverse conditions' (Nietzsche, 1990, p.199). This means that what does not kill you, makes you strong. It also means, accepting a category created by others, revelling in abnormality, celebrating the margins. While the social model is social constructionist, the social oppression model can slide into essentialism. While the disability movement seeks inclusion and integration, it also celebrates difference. The margins are a good place to speak from, and there is a cost to coming into the mainstream. But celebrating and identifying in difference can be risky - for example, recuperating the term `cripple': `The dangerous intimacy between subjectification and subjection needs careful calibration' (Riley, 1988, p.17). The work of Helen Liggett (1988) shows the risks of reinforcing the categorisation of disabled people as a separate group. I think there is a tension in the essentialism within the disability movement and disability studies, and it is one that parallels difficulties experienced within other identity politics: for example, problems for gay and lesbian and feminist theory and politics. Todd Girlin suggests: `For all the talk about the social construction of knowledge, identity politics de facto seems to slide towards the premise that social groups have essential identities' (Girlin, 1994, p.153]. This may be an example of the opposed priorities of theory and practice. As I have suggested, theoretical sophistication may not be appropriate to the needs of social movements: `Post-structuralism's attack on essentialism and the "decentering of the subject" came into conflict with thinking and practice rooted in the standpoint of women or the experience of gays' (Calhoun, 1990, p.15). In practice, social constructionism may not be as politically effective as essentialism, due to a lack of rhetorical power. Some have asked why they should deconstruct their own identities when the oppressors identities are still so strong, and questioned what social constructionism can offer them: `Social constructionism was an ambiguous ally in the attempt to oppose the devaluing of various identities' (Calhoun, 1990, p.16). There are also contradictions internal to the political strategies, for example with the clash between the social model and the minority group notions of disability. While they are often conflated, I would argue that there are differences, and looking at the difference between British and international disability politics indicates some of these. There are in fact two, contradictory goals of disability politics: firstly, demolish the processes which disable; second defend disabled people. Carol Vance (1989) suggests that the lesbian and gay movement faces a parallel dilemma. Lesbian and gay historians have attempted to trace a history of lesbian and gay people, while social constructionist theorists have shown that there is no continuity, and that same sex activity has different meanings in different times and places. As historians begin to reconstruct the disability experience, I believe they will face similar difficulties. Itis only in the late twentieth century that gayness, or disability, have been celebrated with pride. Denise Riley has taken a similar approach to the history of the category `woman', seemingly an essential identity, but in fact just as socially constructed as sexuality. It is a problem for feminist politics which she confronts, not just for historians: from a post-structuralist perspective, she does not have much faith in the coherence of identities: `The impermanence of collective identities in general is a pressing problem for any emancipatory movement which launches itself on the appeal to solidarity, to the common cause of a new group being, or an ignored group identity' (Riley, 1988, p. 16). Another example of the way these debates are relevant to disability is the debate about the role of identity after the dissolution of disabling barriers. If there are benefits to disability identity, if it is a source of strength and pride, will it persist in the utopian world where there are not barriers or oppressive processes? Is there a difference beyond oppression?Is there something about having an impairment, as opposed to being disabled, which will persist and will unite disabled people? There may be major differences here between disability, and race/ gender/ sexuality. Crude dichotomies between social constructionism and essentialism are perhaps not particularly helpful, as Diana Fuss (1989) argues. Social constructionism can itself be quite determinist and fixed. At other times, in the rejection of biological thinking as essentialist, it can become idealist and totally decentred. Judith Butler (1990) has explored the essentialism inherent in social constructionist positions in gender, and the danger of reifying the subject. While feminists have attacked Foucault for seemingly writing out the possibilities of resistance, she develops a complex analysis which nevertheless offers some benefits to those exploring identity politics. For her, the subject is discursively constituted, but agency is possible. She describes identities as self-representations, as "fictions" that are neither fixed not stable. For example, in her view, gender centres on performativity, and she is especially interested in the marginal and transgressive actors who create themselves. Personally, I find Butler's work opaque and difficult, but I am certain it could be useful in developing beyond some of the paradoxes of disability identity (Sawicki, 1994, is a good starting point for these debates). Let me now consider more closely this issue of difference. One of the dangers of the essentialism highlighted above, is that it provides a simplistic reductionism, an `us and them' approach. While this is comforting and secure, it offers risks. As an example, I would suggest an article by disability activist Alan Holdsworth, in which he developed a polemic about allies and oppressors, dividing the non-disabled world into professional oppressors, liberal oppressors and allies (Holdsworth, 1993). In my view, this was unhelpful, because it reduced political agency and identity to a unilinear choice. Disabled people, by virtue of having experienced disablement, were good, and non-disabled people could only be counted as good in very specific circumstances.