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Foucault and the Government of Disability

Shelley Tremain, Editor

Publication Year: 2005

Foucault and the Government of Disability is the first book-length investigation of the relevance and importance of the ideas of Michel Foucault to the field of disability studies-and vice versa. Over the last thirty years, politicized conceptions of disability have precipitated significant social change, including the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, the redesign of urban landscapes, the appearance of closed-captioning on televisions, and the growing recognition that disabled people constitute a marginalized and disenfranchised constituency. The provocative essays in this volume respond to Foucault's call to question what is regarded as natural, inevitable, ethical, and liberating, while they challenge established understandings of Foucault's analyses and offer fresh approaches to his work. The book's roster of distinguished international contributors represents a broad range of disciplines and perspectives, making this a timely and necessary addition to the burgeoning field of disability studies. "A serious step forward not only for disability studies but for the range of theoretical positions associated with Foucault. Foucault and the Government of Disability will provide for years to come a basis for rethinking Foucault's impact on social theory as well as a foundation for active political struggle against the oppression of people with disabilities." -- Tobin Siebers, University of Michigan "Testimony to the enduring power of Foucault's work to stimulate new ways of thinking about and resisting the pernicious effects of normalization within modern societies... Critically engaging Foucault as well as received interpretations of his work, this collection is intended for readers of Foucault as well as critical disability theorists. It delivers on its promise to stimulate us to think differently about both disability and Foucault." -- Jana Sawicki, Williams College Shelley Tremain teaches in the Philosophy Department of the University of Toronto at Mississauga.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Corporealities: Discourses of Disability

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pp. xiii-xvii

The function of a foreword, I take it, is to inform potential readers that the book they have just opened is important and well worth whatever time and effort it would cost them to read it. In addition to performing that task, or maybe in the process of performing it, a foreword should also explain something about what bearing...

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Foucault, Governmentality, and Critical Disability Theory: An Introduction

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pp. 1-25

Twenty years after Michel Foucault died of complications from AIDS, the scope of his intellectual endeavors and the tremendous impetus to social change which that body of work offers are only beginning to be appreciated. Across the disciplines, including history, philosophy, the social sciences, medicine, semiotics, and psychology, Foucault’s work has provoked scholars to question what had previously...

I. Epistemologies and Ontologies

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Subjected Bodies: Paraplegia, Rehabilitation, and the Politics of Movement

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pp. 27-44

Following paralysis, there is a radical break in how paraplegics experience their bodies, in what they are physically able to do, and in the ways in which their bodies are interpreted socially, assigned meanings, and allocated space in which to do and be. Foucault’s notions of bio-power, normalization, and the carceral network...

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Signs of Reason: Rivi

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pp. 45-64

On June 3, 1835, in the village of la Faucterie, a young man named Pierre Rivière brutally murdered three members of his family, actions that he justi‹ed with a memoir that served as testimony to his sanity—an event that inspired Foucault’s text, I, Pierre Rivière, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister, and My Brother. In this...

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Truth, Power, and Ethics in Care Services for People with Learning Difficulties

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pp. 65-77

Foucault was concerned to understand how, within particular systems of knowledge, certain human acts, practices, behaviors, or characteristics emerge as speci‹c problems. These “problematizations,” Foucault contended (1997a), are dynamically linked to power and the formation of subject positions through which,...

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What Can a Foucauldian Analysis Contribute to Disability Theory?

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pp. 78-92

Disability studies in the United Kingdom has begun to grow out of the narrow theoretical approach that constrained its development in the early to middle 1990s. Until the mid-1990s, historical materialism had dominated disability studies in the United Kingdom. The bene‹ts of the materialist “social model of disability”...

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Foucault's Nominalism

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pp. 93-107

It seems plausible to extend to the ‹eld of disability studies a certain nominalist point of view that is evident in Foucault’s work. What I have in mind is an “implantation of impairments” thesis, modeled after what Foucault calls the “implantation of perversions.” After...

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Legislating Disability: Negative Ontologies and the Government of Legal Identities

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pp. 108-130

Sociological inquiry and legal investigation into disability1 must at some point implicitly return to, and negotiate, matters of “disability” at an ontological level. I say “implicitly” because the predominant forms of sociotherapeutic analysis of disability adopt a reductionist approach, which situates “the problem”...

II. Histories

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Docile Bodies, Docile Minds: Foucauldian Reflections on Mental Retardation

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pp. 133-152

Traditionally, philosophical discourse about mental retardation has focused on moral issues surrounding the “mentally retarded,” including de‹nitions of personhood, the problem of marginal cases, and what constitutes justice for people who are labeled mentally retarded. In addition, discussions of “the mentally retarded”...

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Uncommon Schools: Institutionalizing Deafness in Early-Nineteenth-Century America

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pp. 153-171

In Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture (1988), Carol Padden and Tom Humphries begin their exploration of the experiences of the contemporary Deaf community in the United States with a discussion of the way in which young Deaf children learn to assign meaning to the words...

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The Phénomène’s Dilemma: Teratology and the Policing of Human Anomalies in Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth-Century Paris

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pp. 172-188

On July 27, 1909, La Femme homard (The Woman with Lobster Claws), Mlle Brison, a twenty-four-year-old woman with syndatyly, was brought before the Parisian tribunal (Vautel 1909, 1; “Chronique judiciaire” 1909, 4; “Diable boîteux” 1909, 1). Brison had been accused of contravening the police ordinance of February...

III. Governmentalities

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Who is Normal? Who is Deviant? "Normality" and "Risk" in Genetic Diagnostics and Counseling

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pp. 191-207

Normality—that seems to be the central buzzword of our time. Don’t all of us want to be as normal as possible? Is there anyone who wants to be ostracized or considered deviant? Like ideals of health, the concept of normality has gained such great suggestive power, especially in the course of the last century, that one can hardly avoid...

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Inclusive Education for Exclusive Pupils: A Critical Analysis of the Government of the Exceptional

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pp. 208-228

Anumber of authors have used Foucault’s work (including his genealogical framework and notions of regimes of power-knowledge, normalization, and discipline) in order to reveal hidden dimensions of the practice of education (see Ball 1990; Marshall 1996; Popkewitz and Brennan 1998). In particular, theorists of educational practice have...

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Supported Living and the Production of Individuals

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pp. 229-244

It is official. Long-stay residential institutions for people with learning disabilities are bad.1 Supported living in the community is good. The U.K. Government white paper Valuing People projected that by the year 2004 nearly every person with a learning disability shall be living in an ordinary house, on an ordinary street, receiving...

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Real and Ideal Spaces of Disability in American Stadiums and Arenas

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pp. 245-260

Foucault’s notions of government and discipline provide an alternative interpretive framework within which to examine the sociospatial construction of disability from a geographical perspective. Although geographers have begun to draw upon Foucault’s theories within their discipline (see, for instance, Driver 1985; Soja 1989; Philo 1992), few studies have focused speci‹cally on the complex...

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Foucault on the Phone: Disability and the Mobility of Government

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pp. 261-278

Telecommunications is the locus of digital interactive communications that are fast becoming central to society at the commencement of the new millennium. Advanced telecommunications and computer networks are the nervous system of a wide variety of contemporary communications and media forms, including the Internet,...

IV. Ethics and Politics

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Inclusion as an Ethical Project

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pp. 281-297

The inclusion of disabled students within mainstream schools continues to be debated amid criticisms of conceptual confusion among those holding opposing views (Gallagher 2001), and accusations that inclusion has become an ideological battle‹eld (Brantlinger 1997). The reduction of inclusion to a technical matter or problem...

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Gender Police

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pp. 298-328

In the early 1990s, a letter arrived at my son’s nonsexist day care. It was from the good Dr. Zucker, a psychiatrist and leading gender identity theorist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (a curious name!) at the University of Toronto. In the letter, Dr. Zucker invited us as parents to volunteer our sons to participate...


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pp. 329-332


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pp. 333-340

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025954
E-ISBN-10: 0472025953
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472068760
Print-ISBN-10: 0472068768

Page Count: 362
Illustrations: 1 diagram
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Corporealities: Discourses of Disability

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • People with disabilities.
  • Disability studies.
  • Foucault, Michel, 1926-1984.
  • Sociology of disability.
  • Disabilities -- Philosophy.
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