Re-visiting the American Disability Rights Movement: A Cultural Studies Approach

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Existing literature that has analyzed the disability rights movement as a social movement has mainly relied on the two frameworks of resource-mobilization and identity politics. However, this paper posits that these two dominant approaches are inadequate to understand a complex movement such as the disability rights movement; also such a focus serves to marginalize components of the movement that are not manifest as direct political action. Drawing on a cultural studies perspective, this paper puts forth alternative analyses of the American disability rights movement – it calls for re-envisioning disabled people’s movement in terms of their everyday practices of resistance and their struggles over re-defining the meanings of disability. Additionally, the paper calls for critically examining the relationship of the disability rights movement with the state and the movement’s representativeness. It is contended that such alternative modes of analysis and soul-searching can re-invigorate this important social movement of our time.


Keywords: Disability Studies, Cultural Studies, Disability Rights Movement
Stream: Ethnicity, Difference, Identity , Other
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Re-visiting the American Disability Rights Movement


Dr. Vanmala Hiranandani

Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Dalhousie University
Halifax, NS, Canada

Vanmala Hiranandani is Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work, Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. She worked for several years in India as a medical social worker and on community-based research projects concerning health promotion, women’s rights, production of educational multi-media for social change, and displacement of marginalized groups from traditional sources of livelihood as a result of Eurocentric development approaches. Her research interests revolve around anti-colonial thought, health consequences of neo-liberal globalization, alternative approaches to development, anti-imperialism struggles, critical race theory, and research that empowers resistance. Her latest research is on the impact of agricultural trade liberalization policies on food security in India and the growth of food security as a global social movement.

Ref: H08P0404