Horton, J. and Tucker, F. (2010) Some good days, some low days: experiences of disability in academic workplaces. Paper presented to: Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) Annual Conference, London, England, 01-03 September 2010.
This paper reflects upon research with 75 geographers and earth/environmental scientists who describe themselves as having a ‘disabling’ physical or mental condition. Through their often deeply-moving accounts, these respondents articulated something of the affective experience of living with mind-body-emotional-difference in the context of academic workplaces/careers. Broadly, two kinds of experience recurred in these accounts. For some respondents (typically those with sensory or mobility impairments) the experience or onset of ‘disability’ sparked impassioned activist dispositions and politicised work to transform academic practices, workplaces, institutions and disciplines. However, for others (typically those with ‘mental health’ conditions), experiences of ‘ill-health’ were described in terms of anxiety, loss, distress, failure and an anticipatory sense of the impossibility of disclosing their condition within their workplace and discipline. In this paper, we trace some ways in which such different experiences are distributed across, and afforded by, the diverse sites, practices, norms and subtle everyday interactions of contemporary academic workplaces/careers