White Rose Studies of Ableism


This Research Collaboration – funded by the White Rose Consortium – brings together researchers from the disciplines of critical psychology, education, sociology and social policy across the Universities of Sheffield, Leeds and York to interrogate the ideology and practice of ableism. Hitherto, a lot of research has engaged with the practices of disablism (the exclusion of people with physical, sensory and cognitive impairments), bodies and technology. Recently, however, disability research and research on embodiment has become more mindful of the wider processes of ableism. These processes include a host of psychological, social, economic, cultural, imaginary and technological conditions that privilege normative ways of living; promote an idealisation of able-bodiedness; cherish particular forms of personhood and psychological health; spatially organise environments around normative citizens; create institutional bias towards autonomous and independent bodies; feed into wider neo-liberal and advanced capitalist forms of production.

These processes not only draw upon concepts of ability and normativity – often associated with dis/ability and un/healthy divides – but also make use of idealised discourses associated with whiteness, masculinity, entrepreneurship, independence, labour, responsibility, adulthood and accountability. Our proposed collaboration will create necessary space for scholars to theorise aspects of ableism and offer empirical and analytical responses. Our research covers different disciplinary and practitioner positions including educational psychology, social policy, health, technology and sociology.

Over the next 12 months the White Rose Studies of Ableism Research Collaboration will be hosting a number of events. Here is one of them;

INCEPTION EVENT 6th – 7th June 2013

This two day event will bring together researchers from the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York – as well as collaborators from other universities – to develop further ideas around this collaboration.

6TH JUNE 2013
All session will take place in Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds

1 – 3pm: White Rose Studies of Ableism: Initial meeting.

In this meeting we will recap on the aims of the original proposal and revisit the aims of the proposed collaboration.  Please see attached revised proposal.

4 – 6pm: Seminar: Technological Solutions to ‘Not Nice’ Children: co-hosted by White Rose Studies of Ableism and Centre for Health, Technologies and Social Practice (University of Leeds)

Discussions on human enhancement often draw parallels between social, technical and bodily interventions aimed as individual or wider societal improvements. In this seminar we will explore the virtue of these kinds of comparisons, focusing on what counts as a technological solution and what makes it different from other kinds of interventions. To aid this analysis we will explore a range of interventions designed to manage, help or prevent unpleasant, disruptive or otherwise problematic behaviours, attitudes or activities of school children, captured in the umbrella term ‘not nice children.’ We are keen to explore chemical solutions, such as pills which are designed to improve concentration as well as social interventions such as breakfast clubs, or other ways of managing behaviour such as ‘positive’ and ‘negatives’ in planners. We want to consider actual and imagined practices to test the limits and the analytical purchase of thinking of these kinds of interventions as technology. We are therefore inviting seminar participants to prepare and deliver short contributions of 5 minutes which treats a particular intervention as a technology for preventing or managing ‘not nice school children.’ For the purpose of this exercise technologies can be organic, chemical, social, or mechanical in their makeup. Following a series of these short presentations we will then discuss what constitutes a technical intervention to particular social concerns or groups, and how does thinking of interventions as technologies help and hinder our understanding of these practices? Presenters are asked to address the following questions:

What intervention are you going treat as a ‘technology’?
How does it work?
What other technologies does it work in tandem with?
What social rearrangements are required for it to operate?
What are intended and unintended consequences of it’s the operation?

If you are interested in presenting or attending this seminar please contact Thomas Campbell <T.W.Campbell@leeds.ac.uk> by April 30th 2013.


7TH JUNE 2013

11 – 3pm: White Rose Studies of Ableism Seminar II: Emerging themes and insights and insights


We are seeking presentations of no more than 15 minutes that address processes of ableism and have in mind potential collaborative writing, research bidding or an ESRC seminar series proposal. To get the ball rolling it might be worth addressing some of the original ideas that we came up with – which we will be revising and reappraising in light of the meeting on the 6th June. A number of ableist questions emerge that are ripe for further debate and research, including:

(1)  To what extent are moves towards inclusive education for disabled students stymied by an educational culture that is founded on the ableist notion of the entrepreneurial student?

(2)  In what ways do ideas and practices of human enhancement as they apply to the workplace challenge or reassert ableism?

(3)  Do health and social care recreate or subvert ableist notion of psychological and physical health?

(4)  How do political movements and their associated organisations reproduce or contest narrow definitions of citizenship?

(5)  To what extent is it possible and desirable to synthesise theories from critical disability studies, feminism, critical race and queer perspectives?

(6)  To what extent does disability provide possibilities for challenging ableist agendas?

If you are interested in presenting please contact Dan Goodley d.goodley@sheffield.ac.uk before the 30th April 2013.




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