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Everywhere and Nowhere: Constructions of Whiteness in the Lives of white Physically Impaired/Disabled People Lani Parker MA Research Birkbeck College,

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Presentation on theme: "Everywhere and Nowhere: Constructions of Whiteness in the Lives of white Physically Impaired/Disabled People Lani Parker MA Research Birkbeck College,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Everywhere and Nowhere: Constructions of Whiteness in the Lives of white Physically Impaired/Disabled People Lani Parker MA Research Birkbeck College, University of London Theorizing Normalcy and the Mundane 3rd International Conference 26th- 27th June 2012, University of Chester

2 Research Aims To explore manifestations of whiteness in white disabled people’s identities. To open up debates around people’s perceptions of themselves as racialised subjects. To look at the patterns of how white, disabled people as racialised subjects both reinforce and resist racism in the context of wider power structures in the everyday. To look at the interaction between racism and ablism.

3 Racism, Racialisation, and Britain Racism affects everyone, this is not to say everyone is targeted by it. Critical race theory argues that racism is an inherent part of modernity, and integral to neoliberalism (Goldberg 2009; Omi and Winant 1994).

4 Why is whiteness important for the disability movement?* Links between oppression and struggles for liberation (Finkelstein 2001). Disabled people forced into becoming agents of oppression through cuts and personalisation agenda. Whiteness affects the way that we think about key concepts like independence, individualism, and privilege. Absence of the voices of people of colour from the Academy and movement (Bell 2002).

5 Critical Whiteness and Disability ‘Whiteness’, ‘blackness’, and ‘disability’, are relational concepts (Knowles 2003; Nayak 2005; 2007, Thomas 2004). Critical Whiteness Studies is a response to people of colour’s call for white people to look at issues of racism. No-one yet has looked at how disability acts as a marker in defining or disrupting whiteness.

6 Whiteness as Normalising White people seen as ‘just human’ in contrast to non- White people who are seen as Black (Dyer 1997; Frankenberg 1993; Garner 2007). Normalising process helps to prop up racism by constructing ‘commonsense’ notions of what it means to be human (Lawrence 1982). Links between the construction of hetero-normative ableist and racist concepts (McGruer 2006). Construction of ableism as a hegemonic structure arising out of modernity and Western society (Campbell 2009).

7 Method Self-identified selection Semi-structured interviews Follow-up interviews if necessary

8 Talking about Race, Whiteness, and Disability Q: How do you think other people see your ethnic heritage? ‘Well I don't think people really analyse their ethnicity that much to be honest, I think it's just one of those things you put down on a form’ ‘No, I don't think people generally think about it that much... I don't... I can't speak for anybody else really’

9 Q: How do you think other people see your ethnic heritage? ‘Well I imagine they see the same thing, I think the disability's the only thing that puts people off. And I think that only puts people off because they wonder how they're going to cope’

10 Internalised Ableism Internalised ableism, for the purposes of this paper, is defined as the internalisation of external practices and messages, which tell disabled people that they are less than good enough, that they are less than human, and therefore should be ‘more normal’ (Campbell 2009; Thomas 1999). Reinforced through repetition* and the material barriers which are put in place by society. * See Ahmed (2004) and Fanon (1952).

11 Different effects of internalised ableism ‘I formed the sort of model, if you like, that there was my personality which was unaffected, running alongside this disabled body that I couldn't fully control. That allowed me to cope with the two sides. I'm quite sure the activists would be horrified but that's how I rationalised it, and that gave me a path, a way to cope.’

12 For another, the silence around anything personal, including interaction with me in the interview, was itself reflective of her experience of an ablist system: ‘Sorry is this part of the survey or...?’

13 What needs to happen in order for disabled people, both non-white and white, to have useful conversations, both within academia and activism, around issues of racism?

14 References Ahmed, Sara The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press “A Phenomenology of Whiteness” in Feminist Theory. 8(2): Bell, Chris “Introducing White Disability Studies: A Modest Proposal” in The Disability Studies Reader. London & New York: Routledge. Campbell, Fiona Kumari Contours of Ableism: The Production of Disability and Abledness. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Dyer, Richard White: Essays on Race and Culture. London: Routledge. Fanon, Frantz (1952) Black Skin, White Masks, 2 nd ed. London: Pluto Press. Finkelstein, Vic "A Personal Journey Into Disability Politics." First presented at Leeds University Centre for Disability Studies. Frankenberg, Ruth White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Garner, Steve Whiteness: An Introduction. London: Routledge. Gilroy, Paul After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture? London: Routledge.

15 Goldberg, David Theo The Threat of Race: Reflections on Racial Neoliberalism. Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Knowles, Caroline Race and Social Analysis. London: Sage. Lawrence, Errol “Just Plain Commonsense: The ‘Roots of Racism’” In The Empire Strikes Back: Race and Racism in 70s Britain. London: Routledge. McGruer, Robert Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability. New York: New York University Press. Nayak, Anoop “White Lives” In Krim Murji and John Solomos (eds). Racialization Studies in Theory and Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press “Critical Whiteness Studies”, Sociology Compass 1(2): Omi, Micheal, and Winant, Harold. (1986) Racial Formation in the United States. New York and London: Routledge. Second Edition. Reeve, Donna 'Psycho-emotional dimensions of disability within relationships between professionals and disabled people', Disability Studies: Putting Theory Into Practice, Lancaster University, July. Thomas, Carol Female Forms: Experiencing and Understanding Disability. Buckingham: Open University Press How is disability understood? An examination of sociological approaches. Disability & Society, 19(6): Twine, France Winddance, and Gallagher, Charles “The future of whiteness: a map of the ‘third wave’”, Ethnic and Racial Studies 31(1): 4-24.


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