am 15. September 1998
Claiming Disability: Making the Case for Inclusion
In Alice's Restaurant, Arlo Guthrie archly reminded us that when you've got three people, you've got a movement. The disability rights movement has moved miles beyond the three-person requirement. There have been sit-ins, bus boycotts, rallies, and student strikes. Disability studies, by contrast, has been something of a stepchild of that movement and, until recently, has been largely without a coherent manifesto. Simi Linton has remedied that situation. In Claiming Disability, she carefully and concisely makes the case for the legitimacy of disability studies as an academic discipline. She identifies the core areas of inquiry and the domains of discourse to which disability studies should address itself, and she helps us to understand the important contributions that disability studies can make toward enriching and contextualizing our understanding and experience of disability and the disabled.
In making the case for disability studies she draws parallels to black studies and women's studies to help us see the importance of empowering scholars to move beyond the narrow confines of the applied "fixit" fields of medicine, rehabilitation, remediation, and accommodation that she aptly characterizes as "not disability studies". Both in academia, and in that broader set of endeavors that we like to refer to as "the real world", Linton has important things to say about both our need to rethink disability and about the ways in which we can ago about doing just that.
The value of this slim volume goes beyond its important role as a powerful argument for the inclusion of disability studies in the liberal arts curriculum. Dr. Linton also provides us with a valuable tool for the analysis of disabiliy as sociocultural phenomenon . By updating and expanding a taxonomy initially developed for the anthropological investigation of cross-cultural attitudes towards disability she has crafted a metric of considerable heuristic power.
As any self-respecting 49er will quickly point out, staking a claim is only the first of many difficult steps toward finally reaping reward. Nevertheless, a foundation is being built, and Claiming Disability is both a tool and a benchmark. It's publication marks a coming of age for the disability rights movement and a seminal contribution to disability studies. Several recent books have advanced the cause of disability awareness (Joseph Shapiro's No Pity and John Hockenberry's Moving Violations come immediately to mind). With Claiming Disability, the nascent field of disability studies will be strengthened and advanced. You may have gathered by now, that I think that this is an important book. I believe that an increasingly sophisticated public awareness of disability issues and disability concerns is well served and will be furthered by Claiming Disability. Read it, talk about it, and pass it on!
September 15, 1998