This thesis presents a critical disability discourse analysis. It examines the discursive construction of disability and the personal and political positioning of disabled people. Focusing on disclosure, identity, activism, theory and policy issues relating to disabled people, the naturalisation and invalidation of the disabled body is explored and critiqued. Organised in three parts, the thesis begins by considering some significant historical moments, the sociolegal context and the recent politicisation of both disabled people and disability research. Disability is argued as embedded in, and institutionalised by, political regulatory structures and research that risks de-politicisation of it is critiqued. Part two considers theories, methods and the text data collected for the research. This defines the theoretical orientation to discursive psychology, discourse analysis and critical disability studies. Disability is articulated as an object in, and for interaction and its construction linked to historical, social and political structures that regulate and sustain the human subject. The text data used in the thesis is then presented in terms of the collection process and the organisation of extracts within the current thesis. The forms of text data collected include transcriptions of discussion groups with disabled people, front line workers and senior managers, policy documents, publicity imagery and Hansard records of parliamentary debates. Part three then presents a critical disability discourse analysis using this text data. Drawing on the framework of discourse analysis as articulated by Potter and Wetherell (1987) the discursive function, construction and variation of disability talk and textwork is critically considered. This reveals dilemmas of positioning and ideology during moments of disability disclosure. Analytical commentary argues that disability identity is constructed by an interpretative repertoire embedded in the antithesis of desired and valued life. The construction of ‘barriers’ in social model texts are also explored in discussion groups and local policy documents. This shows the recent distortion and colonisation of the social model, and suggests that the metaphor of ‘barriers’ used to signify the structures that disable people has lost its once radical and resistive power. Hansard records are then used to explore implications and dilemmas which arise regarding agency, autonomy and the disabled body in relation to dominant discourses of individualism and the challenges this poses for an ‘independent living’ reform strategy. The thesis concludes by asserting a discursive mode of disablism. This is suggested as a useful driver for research and initiatives to expose and challenge everyday discourses and practises that perpetuate the invalidation of the disabled body.
Sociology of disability; people with disabilities social conditions; disability studies