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From the Field -- Coming Out Disabled: The Politics of Understanding

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The Ohio State University Libraries
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Disciplines
  • Law
  • Political Science

Abstract

From the Field From the Field Disability Studies Quarterly Fall 2001, Volume 21, No. 4 pages 131-139 <www.cds.hawaii.edu> Copyright 2001 by the Society for Disability Studies Coming Out Disabled: The Politics of Understanding Tanya Titchkosky, Ph.D Department of Sociology and Anthropology St. Francis Xavier University Nova Scotia, Canada The experience of being disabled is one path into Disability Studies. But is it? Is this assertion as straightforward as it first appears? That such experience is a path into disability studies remained unambiguous for me until I began to prepare for the 2000 Society for Disability Studies conference in Chicago. To whom does the experience of being disabled belong? How do we read and identify what counts as disability experience? In the midst of a context where disability experience can be understood to ground both identity and knowledge production, my invisibility as disabled began to haunt me as an absent-presence and my obvious, darn near iconigraphic, appearance as "one of the normals" was a presence I wanted to make absent. This has provoked me to shift a way from a critique of abilist forms of knowledge production and toward an interrogation of the standpoint of disability as a place for knowledge as well as toward a consideration of arguments regarding what counts as such a stance. This is the politics of understanding that I will pursue in this paper and I do so by turning to an examination of pluralistic and even contradictory experiences. Experience, Identity, and Access Experience of, identity with, and access to the stuff of everyday life are tied up together not only in relation to disability, but in all situations. For example, three years ago, after completing my PhD, I moved from Toronto to a small town in Nova Scotia in order to teach sociology at St. Francis Xavier University. In the province of Nova Scotia it is illegal to sell cigarettes to anyone under nineteen y

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