Good god, Miles!! Did you really feel it necessary to give the thread the
name with which my older sister taunted me when I was a child??? If
anything is an ad hominem attack, that surely must be!
----- Original Message -----
From: "m99m" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, March 17, 2004 9:09 PM
Subject: Casus Shelli Belli [?]
> Casus Shelli Belli [?]
> One reason for continuing unease and possibly 'aggressive' behaviour on
> this list is the perception that there are certain 'no-go' areas, i.e.
> topics of importance, that have been approached intermittently by various
> contributors over the past nine years, and from which they have been
> back by vigorous, perhaps abreactive, force. And if some well-mannered and
> consensus-seeking lurkers think they have seen anything nasty
> recently, "they ain't seen nuttin" compared with the shenanigans that
> occurred much earlier!
> (Older denizens might recall a certain rabbi, whose habit during several
> months on the list was to hammer his opponents into the ground with any
> available blunt instrument, then haul them out again by the hair in order
> to apologise for this treatment, and then hammer them in again to show
> there were no hard feelings. Some of his actual arguments were quite
> reasonable, or at least interesting; but the quality was often overlooked
> in the general panic when he was cleaving someone's head in twain).
> A longstanding hot topic has been the Social Model(s) of Disability, or
> SMODs. When this list started, it specified a particular interest in, or
> desire to serve, discussion among people working in or with the SMOD
> was, in that period, supposed to be one, rather than multiple). However,
> because the list took (or commandeered...) the title
> it was not always obvious that the space was expected to be used mainly by
> users of, or believers in, a SMOD or SMODs.
> Further, while the use of a particular model is hardly obnoxious in
> on several occasions when questions were raised about SMODs, a sharp
> polarisation appeared, because SMODs were being used basically in two
> different ways by their adherents. Some participants were willing to
> discuss SMODs as models that could and should be used for doing better
> research, more inclusive, participative and emancipatory research, as
> against various other models which they considered gave poor or false
> results because of the weak or superceded paradigm on which they were
> based. There were other list participants for whom the SMOD was not a
> for research, but a battle cry, the slogan on their banner, the idea that
> had turned their life around, and was now a sacred dogma, definitely not
> for discussion.
> The 'Believer' position could (though it never did, to my recollection)
> have drawn upon the historical fact that a central idea in SMODs has been
> around for some millennia in various parts of the world, i.e. the view
> society, or the behaviour of a local community, or the (mis)design of the
> social environment, can play a significant part in generating disability.
> Believers could have taken comfort from the fact that the 'explanation'
> embodied in SMODs had proved enlightening to people in many places and
> generations, so it was unlikely to be much harmed, or to disappear, merely
> through a little discussion in an academic research corner. (But Believers
> who feel that someone is scratching their central plank are seldom easily
> On the other hand, there were (and are) people doing disability research
> who have felt uncomfortable with what has sometimes appeared to be the
> exaggerated importance attributed to SMODs, the elevation of Believers to
> become thought police, and the tendency to fence off large areas of life
> and declare it out of bounds to all research not approved by a small
> section of the research community. Normally-reasonable researchers can
> very stroppy when they see part of 'their' patch thus being sequestered or
> (mis)appropriated, and when they perceive that terminology is being
> manipulated in a way that ejects them smoothly down the trash chute.
> Further, significant changes have occurred during the past nine years, so
> that conflict over SMODs in 2004 is not identical to conflict in 1995.
> this is where it gets very difficult to give a fair and neutral
> Five years ago, two major figures published views about SMODs. Vic
> Finkelstein, long one of the most combative proponents of the British
> denounced what he saw as a sneaky tendency to take the cutting edge off
> SMOD and rectify it to fit comfortably into a society that was just as
> unfair and disabling as it had ever been. He saw the need to insist on the
> cutting edge, the need for radical restructuring of society. Meanwhile,
> French philosopher and disability historian, Henri-Jacques Stiker,
> suggested that the British SMOD had served its turn and was now past its
> sell-by date - its particular construction belonged to a certain era, but
> the world was moving on. There was also a groundswell of voices
> that people's bodies were important, but they weren't being allowed to
> about them in ways they wanted to do, because some people feared that to
> so would bore holes in the SMODship, and let the dreaded Medical Modellers
> come pouring in again.
> Soon afterward, SMODs took some further jolts from researchers. From
> debates focused around ICIDH-2 revision (which was looking into ways of
> accommodating Disability Movement inputs, while not giving up the basic
> biomedical paradigm), Jerome Bickenbach and colleagues suggested that
> had been useful as campaign slogans to achieve some Disability Movement
> objectives, but the dyadic approach (Impairment / Disability) was not
> sufficient for describing the complex observed realities of people with
> impairments as they undertook activities for themselves or attempted to
> participate in a social environment, nor was the SMOD operationalisable as
> a research tool. Tom Shakespeare, who had earlier engaged in vigorous
> defence of SMODs, did some rethinking, decided that there had been enough
> exaggerated thesis / antithesis battles, and published an appeal for
> forward to positions that better represented the realities as now
> These last few paragraphs are grossly truncated as an overview -- and I've
> omitted references, for the moment -- but anyhow, there seems to have been
> some significant shift of academic ground over a decade. Further, recent
> years saw some shifts of emphasis among North American non-biomedical
> disability studies. I won't attempt any description - but it appears that
> the "British SMOD" c. 1970s to 1990s has had a rather modest impact on
> North American disability discourse, and that impact is hardly growing; it
> might be declining.
> These trends (which could be much more accurately described, and then
> heavily argued about, in 50,000 words rather than 500) have left quite a
> number of believers bruised and bloodied, and researchers uncertain how
> things are going to pan out, or how they ought to pan out. The trends
> however, had very little calm discussion on this list. There has only been
> some intermittent sniping, and an occasional flare-up.
> Mark Priestley, who really has spent a considerable part of the past
> tending to the more tedious aspects of keeping the list wheels turning,
> unjamming the technical glitches, assisting people who want to join, or
> leave, or get their dog registered, or whatever, posting good-humoured
> housekeeping notes, and very occasionally asking specific people either to
> cool it or to take a break and come back when they're feeling more
> cheerful, has (I think) no less right than anyone else to post
> as well as to express his personal views about disability and research, on
> the list he co-founded.
> Shelley Tremain has the advantage of being trained in philosophical
> argument and experienced in turning a radical gaze on disability
> but these assets have not seemed to find workable ground, traction or
> counterpart on this particular list recently. That's a pity. There have
> been earlier debates here, in which the input of a trained philosopher was
> badly needed to untangle things, point out the different usage of terms,
> drop some further ideas in and so on. We didn't always have a philosopher
> to hand, unless Anita Silvers spared the time for it.
> Participants out there may not agree that SMODs are at present in a phase
> of decline; but I think a lot of people would agree that there is
> turbulence in this area, and it is not easy to discuss. That is, I
> a major factor behind the recent sniping and discomfort. I didn't achieve
> neutral and balanced account above, but as some recent participants
> asked "what's going on?!", and I feel some empathy with both Mark and
> Shelley, I gave some sort of account.
> Feel free to disagree, either with the account, or with its pertinence to
> recent business!
> [But, as Mark sometimes pleads: you don't have to take up bandwidth by
> repeating this over-long post underneath your further remarks!!]
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