Critical Disability Studies and the Disabled Child: Unsettling Distinctions, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Critical Disability Studies and the Disabled Child

Unsettling Distinctions, 1st Edition

By Harriet Cooper


208 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780367183066
pub: 2020-04-07
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This book examines the relationship between contemporary cultural representations of disabled children on the one hand, and disability as a personal experience of internalised oppression on the other. In focalising this debate through an exploration of the politically and emotionally charged figure of the disabled child, Harriet Cooper raises questions both about what it means to ‘speak for’ the other and about what resistance means when one is unknowingly invested in one’s own abjection.

Drawing on both the author’s personal experience of growing up with a physical impairment and on a range of critical theories and cultural objects – from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel The Secret Garden to Judith Butler’s work on injurious speech – the book theorises the making of disabled and ‘rehabilitated’ subjectivities. With a conceptual framework informed by both psychoanalysis and critical disability studies, it investigates the ways in which cultural anxieties about disability come to be embodied and lived by the disabled child.

Posing new questions for disability studies and for identity politics about the relationships between lived experiences, cultural representations and dominant discourses – and demonstrating a new approach to the concept of ‘internalised oppression’ – this book will be of interest to scholars and students of disability studies, medical humanities, sociology and psychosocial studies, as well as to those with an interest in identity politics more generally.

Table of Contents


Chapter One: The look which made me: The early gazing relationship and the construction of disabled subjectivity

Chapter Two: Making her better? Denaturalising the notion of the ‘developing child’

Chapter Three: (Un)making the child, making the future: On gifts, commodities and diagnostic speech acts

Chapter Four: Making, unmaking, remaking? Finding a position from which to resist




About the Author

Harriet Cooper is currently Senior Research Associate in Health and Medical Humanities at the University of East Anglia, UK. Having worked across both critical disability studies and health sociology, she is interested in how (inter)disciplinarity imagines itself and polices its operations, as well as in the ways in which concepts of inclusivity, involvement and democracy animate and shape academic agendas. The themes of disability and emancipation connect all of Harriet’s work to date, yet as a methodologist she continues to be irked by the question of how best to combine academia and activism.

About the Series

Interdisciplinary Disability Studies

Disability studies has made great strides in exploring power and the body. This series extends the interdisciplinary dialogue between disability studies and other fields by asking how disability studies can influence a particular field. It will show how a deep engagement with disability studies changes our understanding of the following fields: sociology, literary studies, gender studies, bioethics, social work, law, education, or history. This ground-breaking series identifies both the practical and theoretical implications of such an interdisciplinary dialogue and challenges people in disability studies as well as other disciplinary fields to critically reflect on their professional praxis in terms of theory, practice, and methods.

Series editor: Mark Sherry, The University of Toledo, USA

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / People with Disabilities
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Children's Studies