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Disabling imagery Images as ‘disciplinary power’.

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1 Disabling imagery Images as ‘disciplinary power’

2 'Disciplinary power' and the 'disciplinary gaze' (Foucault, 1977). Disciplinary power emerged in the eighteenth century, when disciplinary techniques 'crossed the ‘technological threshold' and became instruments of a new kind of power (Foucault, 1977: 224). As a technique of power, it is quite distinct from 'the majestic rituals of sovereignty or the great apparatus of the state' (Foucault, 1977: 170).

3 The three silent mechanisms of the ‘gaze’ Three 'simple instruments' of disciplinary power: 'hierarchical observation, normalizing judgement and their combination in a procedure that is specific to it, the examination' (Foucault, 1977: 170).

4 Images of disability as hierarchical observation Bethan’s Panopticon: a structure that ‘would make it possible for a single gaze to see everything constantly… a perfect eye that nothing would escape the centre towards which all gazes would be turned’ (Foucault, 1977: 173). The unified disciplinary gaze ‘traverses all points and supervises every instant' (Foucault, 1977: 183).

5 Images as normalising judgements: the disciplinary image Disciplinary power acts upon individuals to ensure they are ‘trained or corrected, classified, normalised, excluded etc.’ (Foucault, 1977: 191). It is a force that acts by measuring ‘in quantitative terms and hierarchies in terms of value the abilities, the level, the 'nature' of individuals’ and, using this information, ‘introduces… the constraint of a conformity that must be achieved’ (Foucault, 1977: 183).

6 Normalisation and attention All the time that the ends of our practice are (mis)informed by “unexamined notions of ‘normality’,” we can but find ourselves sauntering through our professional lives, only half-awake to their richness and complexity (Barton & Corbett, 1993: 15).

7 Images as a mechanism of examination The examination is ‘a mechanism of objectification’, the ‘examination is, as it were, the ceremony of this objectification’ (Foucault: 1977: 187).

8 Disciplinary images of disability Prejudice is not just interpersonal – between the abled and the dis-abled – but is also implicit in cultural representations of persons with impairments (Shakespeare, 1994). Prejudice is a form of ‘disciplinary power’ Prejudice can be as powerfully disabling as any social structure.

9 Barnes (1992) on categories of disciplinary images Category One: The Tragic conception of Disability Category Two: The Disabled Person as Sinister and Evil Category Three: The Disabled Person with super human abilities Category Four: The Disabled Person as an Object of Ridicule Category five: The Disabled Person as Incapable of Participating Fully in Community Life Category six: Positive Images of disability

10 Category 1: The Tragic conception of Disability  ‘The pitiful disabled characters initially evoke hostile feelings because they have come to represent experiences – such as vulnerability and dependency – which have been repressed in the spectator. These hostile feelings are then quickly transformed … into guilt and attempts to secure forgiveness’.  (Marks, 1999:166-67)

11 Posters for a drugs company


13 Category Two: The Disabled Person as Sinister and Evil  ‘This distortion of the experience of disability is present in a great deal of literature and art, both classical and popular, and continues to be produced today.’ (Barnes, 1992)


15 Schizoid (1972) The Warning: ‘Not Recommended Viewing for Persons with Schizophrenic Tendencies!’


17 Category Three: The Disabled Person as a person with super human abilities  ‘... by flaunting normal accomplishments as extraordinary, by hailing people with disabilities as human wonders, aggrandized presentations probably taught the lesson that achievement for people with differences was unusual rather than common.’  (Bogdan, 1988: 279). They make overcoming disability the responsibility of the disabled person. Barnes (1992): these images ‘can result in them [the disabled] being denied essential services’.


19 Category Four: The Disabled Person as an Object of Ridicule Toni Morrison (1993/1997: 270): 'lethal discourses of exclusion blocking access to cognition for both the excluder and the excluded'. Lethal because they are so few positive images to contradict them (Shakespeare, 1999). The Trentonian (New Jersey), July 10th, 2002

20 Category five: The Disabled Person as incapable of inclusion in community life The disabled amount to just 1.5% of all characters portrayed in TV films and dramas (Cumberbatch & Negrine,1992) In contrast, Government evidence reveals that at least 12% of the British population are disabled people (Barnes, 1992).

21 Warned New Yorkers to beware of a terrifying new crime wave: “In our newfound complacency, we have forgotten a particular kind of violence to which we are still prey. The violence of the mentally-ill.”

22 Poster for a drug company

23 Category six: Positive Images of disability Ideas? Excellent websites: htm htm ng/disability/guide.html ng/disability/guide.html

24 References Barnes, C. (1992) Disabling Imagery and the Media: An Exploration of the Principles for Media Representations of Disabled People Barton, L. & Corbett, J. (1993) Special needs in further education: the challenge of inclusive provision, European Journal of Special Needs Education, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.14-22 Bogdan, R. (1988) Freak show: presenting human oddities for amusement and profit (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press) Cumberbatch, G. & Negrine, R. (1992) Images of Disability on Television (London, Routledge) Foucault, M. (1977) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Trans. by A. Sheridan, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books)

25 Oliver, M. and Barnes, C. (1998) Disabled People and Social Policy: From Exclusion to Inclusion, Harlow, Addison Wesley Longman. Marks, D. (1999) Disability: Controversial debates and psychological perspectives (London: Rutledge) Shakespeare. T. (1994) Cultural Representation of Disabled People: Dustbins for Disavowal? [Online] me.htm [22/09/04] me.htm Shakespeare, T. (1999) Art and lies? Representations of disability on film, In M. Corker & S. French (Eds) Disability Discourse (Philadelphia: Open University Press)

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