Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review: Disability Politics & Theory


[A.J. Withers. Disability Politics & Theory. Halifax NS and Winnipeg MB: Fernwood Publishing, 2012.]

This is a short and accessible introduction to some key ideas relevant to disability politics, written from a radical perspective by someone with extensive experience in radical disability, anti-globalization, and anti-poverty organizing. Its very straightforward mission is to analyze the most important dominant models through which disability has been understood in Western societies over the years -- eugenic, medical, charity, rights, and social -- and use the learnings from that analysis to advance a new radical model of disability.


The book does what it sets out to do, and does it quite well. I learned a lot and enjoyed the read. I have only two suggestions for how the book could've been strengthened. One is that it could have pushed a bit further in talking about power, particularly in its discussion of the medical model of disability. I mean that in the sense of addressing the question how more insistently and more practically -- in social movements in North America we very easy to fall into a variety of stances that result in us doing much less of that than we need to really equip ourselves to challenge the relations that rule us, and I think there was more room in this book to explore, in that practical how sense, the social organization of knowledge and power in medical contexts, without compromising the books brevity, readability, and accessibility. And the other useful addition would have been more space at the end talking in concrete terms about organizing that might emerge from the proposed radical model of disability -- perhaps some examples of organizing efforts that already embody it in important ways, or perhaps speculation from the author about what could, in concrete terms, be.

Anyway, it's well worth a read. And maybe it's just because the episode of my radio show that I'm editing for next week is about a radical reading group and I therefore have such things on my mind, but it strikes me that this would be a good book to use if your activist formation realizes it doesn't do a good job of dealing with disability issues and it wants to do some collective studying and conversing to start figuring out how to rectify that.

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1 comment:

Rachee C said...

Sounds like the perfect read..