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DISABILITY-RESEARCH  March 2004

DISABILITY-RESEARCH March 2004

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Subject:

lists and models (some more refs)

From:

Mark Priestley <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Mark Priestley <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 18 Mar 2004 17:33:27 +0000

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Parts/Attachments

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For interest, some list members may not be aware that all of our postings
(informative, thought-provoking, tedious and slanderous) are archived from
previous years on the list website. Everything posted to the list is
retained in the public domain and is searchable by anyone with internet
access...(not just list members). This in itself is good motivation to
conduct ourselves as we would like to be remembered. As Mike notes, it's
interesting to revisit some of those earlier debates (and one or two of
them are collected together in edited files). There is some discussion
there about terminology, social models and various other things that
continue to preoccupy us from time to time (go to the list webpage 'file
area' and look for topic files). The list web address appears at the bottom
of every list message, but for reference here, it is:
www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/disability-research.html

When Emma Stone and I started the list in December 1994 we did indeed
intend it as a conduit through which we might meet and learn from other
researchers, and especially those trying to work within a 'social model
approach' (as students at that time, we were most certainly working on the
assumption that those who would join the list would know a lot more about
it than we did!). I have probably learned since then that we might have
been better advised to frame our broad description as working within 'a
social interpretation of disability' (as suggested by UPIAS in the early
1970s). The term 'social model' was more definitively identified in teh UK
by Mike Oliver (1983; 1990; et seq.) and for some it has aquired a rather
specific meaning. For others, it seems to mean something completely
different.

Neither Emma nor I argued that all research should be conducted within
a 'social model' approach (although in our 1996 paper we did argue
that 'emancipatory research' should be based on the ontological assumptions
of the social model). We were however enthusiastic advocates of the need to
explore its utility and application in real world research, and keen also
to expose the inappropriate application of individual models to social
problems. The 1998 paper that Mike kindly refers to was my slightly crude
attempt to develop a typology of different approaches to writing/thinking
about disability in relation to historically significant paradigms of
thought within (Western, modernist) social science. Along with Brendan
Gleeson's paper along similar lines, I think the main point was to
illuminate differences in materialist and idealist assumptions about social
reality and strategies social change. Both Shelley and Mairian were amongst
those who were most helpful in publishing critical comments on that paper
(e.g. noting its limited modernist assumptions and dichotomies), which
helped me to apply the ideas in what I hope is a slightly more
sophisticated way in the 2003 book (Disability; a life course approach).

I suppose I should add that it was also our conscious intention (not always
made explicit) that the list should make public discussions between
academics, so that researchers could be held more accountable for their
reasoning and assumptions by those outside Universities (we argue this
explicitly in the 1996 paper - explaining why we wanted our own academic
thinking to be more accountable in the research process). I know from
discussions with various activists and disabled people's organisations that
the list does quite well in allowing non-researchers to see how researchers
think and behave towards disabled people and towards each other. So maybe
it is successful in that regard.

My main point though is that list discussions and other published exchanges
on the meanings and implications of our ways of thinking are enormously
useful in helping us to develop more sophisticated and appropriate ways of
theorising and doing research. I also acknowledge that some people find
some of those debates somewhat privileged and disengaged... but then, as
most people know, I also have a degree in philosophy...

Mark

PS. to add to suggestions for reading, I've found Vic's 2001 paper on the
social model very helpful, and that is available online at:
http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/finkelstein/soc%20mod%
20repossessed.pdf
For reference, the whole of Mike Oliver's 'Politics of Disablement' (along
with several other useful papers is available on the archive too):
http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/Oliver/Oliver.htm
I'd also like to recommend Carol Thomas' chapter in the new edited book on
social model approaches (the advertisement for which sparked off our recent
discussion).

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