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Devlieger, Clara (2018) Disability. In: Stein, F., Lazar, S., Candea, M., Diemberger, H., Robbins, J., Sanchez, A. and Stasch, R., (eds.) Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

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Identification Number: 10.29164/18disab


Disability is a form of difference that is created when the social participation of someone with an impairment is ‘dis-abled’ by normative expectations and material conditions. This entry reviews some of the key contributions anthropologists have made to studying disability as a socially constructed category. Disability is at once central and marginal to the anthropological canon. Grounded in fine-grained, long-term ethnographic fieldwork, anthropological studies of disability have drawn attention to the relational nature of disability as a category that is variable despite its quality as a universal human experience. This entry starts by explaining the difference between ‘impairment’ and ‘disability’ before reviewing the trajectory of anthropological studies of disability – in mostly western industrialized contexts – from a ‘medical’ to a ‘social’ framework of understanding. It then turns to consider some of the theoretical orientations this has produced and examines a more recent shift to studying the lived experience of disability beyond the Euro-American west. It concludes by reviewing some of the developments in studying disability in recent years, in which scholars focus on social organization, technology, and personal, embodied experiences.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 The Author
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 23 May 2019 11:27
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2021 23:04

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