Social Encounters, Cultural Representation and Critical Avoidance

Authored by: David Bolt

Routledge Handbook of Disability Studies

Print publication date:  February  2012
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415574006
eBook ISBN: 9780203144114
Adobe ISBN: 9781136502170


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Cultural disability studies is an explicitly interdisciplinary field, synthesizing, as it often does, scholarship in both disability and various forms of cultural production. Probing the very point of that interdisciplinarity, this chapter considers two interrelated questions. Does the study of culture deepen our understanding of disability? Does the study of disability enrich our understanding of culture? Specifically, the friction and avoidance that may result from encounters between those of us who have impairments and those of us who do not are analysed and theorized with reference to the influence of cultural representation. This discussion helps to explain why, increasingly, the established discipline of disability studies pertains to cultural factors. But also illustrated is the fact that a critical appreciation of disability can greatly inform the study of cultural representations, be they literary, filmic, artistic, musical, or whatever. The two interrelated questions raise a challenging issue on which I reflect here and elsewhere, for although the field of cultural disability studies is undoubtedly growing, it remains generally ignored within the humanities. In effect, the avoidance that results from some encounters between those of us who have impairments and those of us who do not have impairments is duplicated in the academy on a curricular level. It is to this scenario that I attach the label critical avoidance.

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