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Disability and Passing

Blurring the Lines of Identity

Jeffrey A Brune, Daniel J Wilson

Publication Year: 2013

Passing—an act usually associated with disguising race—also relates to disability. Whether a person classified as mentally ill struggles to suppress aberrant behavior to appear "normal" or a person falsely claims a disability to gain some advantage, passing is a pervasive and much discussed phenomenon. Nevertheless, Disability and Passing is the first anthology to examine this issue. 

The editors and contributors to this volume explore the intersections of disability, race, gender, and sexuality as these various aspects of identity influence each other and make identity fluid.  They argue that the line between disability and normality is blurred, discussing disability as an individual identity and as a social category. And they discuss the role of stigma in decisions about whether or not to pass.

Focusing on the United States from the nineteenth century to the present, the essays in Disability and Passing speak to the complexity of individual decisions about passing and open the conversation for broader discussion. 

Contributors include:  Dea Boster, Allison Carey, Peta Cox, Kristen Harmon, David Linton, Michael Rembis, and the editors.


Published by: Temple University Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-12

DISABILITY PASSING is a complex and wide-ranging topic. Most oft en, the term refers to the way people conceal social markers of impairment to avoid the stigma of disability and pass as “normal.”1 However, it also applies to other ways people manage their identities, which can include exaggerating a condition to get some...

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2. Passing in the Shadow of FDR: Polio Survivors, Passing, and the Negotiation of Disability

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pp. 13-35

THE AMERICAN WRITER and novelist Wilfred Sheed spent many years following his case of polio attempting to disguise the fact that he was disabled. He noted that most individuals with handicaps “find themselves faced as one with the same task,” which is to “make the world, and ourselves, forget for as long and as often as possible...

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3. The Multiple Layers of Disability Passing in Life, Literature, and Public Discourse

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pp. 36-57

MOST OF THE TIME we think about passing on a concrete level—for example, an act by which someone conceals or overlooks the presence of disability in the body. However, passing also occurs on a more abstract level, as authors and audiences overlook the presence of disability in texts and in public discourse. It is this form...

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4. The Menstrual Masquerade

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pp. 58-70

THE SOCIAL menstrual ecology is a most peculiar environment, full of contradictions, ambiguities, and layers of cultural construction. More than half the population of the globe is presumed to be a future menstruator, a periodic menstruator, or a former menstruator, yet at the same time, all of the members of the menstrual...

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5. “I Made Up My Mind to Act Both Deaf and Dumb”: Displays of Disability and Slave Resistance in the Antebellum American South

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pp. 71-98

IN 1839, Jacob D. Green, a domestic slave and errand boy on a large plantation in Maryland, made his first attempt to run away from his master. Th e resourceful Green had begun to use deception and tricks at a young age to torment his white masters and get revenge on fellow slaves who humiliated or wronged him, but, in Green’s words, “I firmly...

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6. Passing as Sane, or How to Get People to Sit Next to You on the Bus

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pp. 99-110

FOR THE PAST FIVE YEARS, I have been taking public transport in Sydney, Australia. I ride on buses, trains, and the occasional ferry.1 My experiences have prompted me to develop the following rules for appearing sane on public transport: ...

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7. Athlete First: A Note on Passing, Disability, and Sport

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pp. 111-141

FOR SOME DISABLED PEOPLE, being viewed as an athlete fi rst is the ultimate compliment, and the ultimate goal. Deborah, for example, likes to think of herself as a “sports . . . person—not as a woman—and not as disabled.” She adds, “It’s very hard work, but I like to feel strong and powerful and that’s how I win gold medals—in the...

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8. The Sociopolitical Contexts of Passing and Intellectual Disability

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pp. 142-166

INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES face an environment fraught with contradictions regarding whether one should try to pass as nondisabled, develop disability pride and resist passing, or deconstruct and disregard the binary construction of disability–ability altogether. The study of passing is oft en approached from the perspective of social...

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9. Growing Up to Become Hearing: Dreams of Passing in Oral Deaf Education

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pp. 167-198

SOME YEARS AGO, my mother and I were talking about what it meant for us that I had been educated and raised in the “pure oral method.”1 At that time, I was in graduate school at a large Midwestern university and supporting myself through a teaching fellowship....


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pp. 199-200


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pp. 201-206

E-ISBN-13: 9781439909812
E-ISBN-10: 1439909814
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439909805
Print-ISBN-10: 1439909806

Page Count: 218
Publication Year: 2013