Footprints, wheel tracks, and stirrings of a movement: positioning people with a disability and the Disability Rights Movement within Australia.

Carling-Jenkins, Rachel (2007) Footprints, wheel tracks, and stirrings of a movement: positioning people with a disability and the Disability Rights Movement within Australia. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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The Disability Rights Movement, which emerged internationally as a major force operating to emancipate people with disability, can be identified as leaving only fragile footprints within Australia. In contrast, there are other new social movements that have received a higher level of recognition, prominence and influence within Australia. A sampling of two of these movements—the Women’s Liberation and Indigenous Rights Movements—were used to develop a tool for analysing the struggle of people with disability and the Disability Rights Movement in Australia. This research was framed through the critical inquiry, disability studies – emancipatory and critical pre-action paradigms. A documentary method was used, where annotations were made from literature representing the sampled movements. A study was presented of the sampled movements, with the aim of learning from these movements. An analysis tool was then developed for application to the Disability Rights Movement from the information gained. This tool involves three aspects: domains, which explore the roots of the struggle; details, which investigate significant visions, events and voices within a context of local conditions and international influences; and dimensions, which explicated the levels of consciousness that develop through new social movements.

This analysis tool was then applied to disability literature in Australia. People with disability were identified, as a group within Australia, as having been oppressed and ‘othered’ by their non-disabled counterparts who have assumed medical, professional and economic dominance. This study established the positioning of people with disability in Australia as one characterised by exploitation, marginalisation, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence within the medical, professional and market domains. The struggles of the disabled ‘other’ were framed through the denial of citizenship, segregation within institutions, living on the margins of society and the Disabled Body. These themes were identified and explored as areas of oppression for people with disability in Australia.

Through an initial critical analysis, this study then revealed a fragmented picture of the Disability Rights Movement in Australia. An explanation was presented for these tensions, where two streams were identified within the movement, namely the ability stream and the disability pride stream. These streams were identified as running concurrently through the movement, creating a confluence which inhibits the movement from leaving significant footprints within Australia. Each of these streams, including their motivations and visions were evidenced.

This research concludes that disability in Australia is still considered within modern thought, and thus the ‘othering’ of people with disability within an hierarchy of dominance continues to be reinforced through regimes and institutions, and is evidenced through the privileged control of public and private spaces. The Disability Rights Movement in Australia was reviewed as individually fragmented, collectively divided and publicly restricted, allowing the privileged to maintain control and impose multiple definitions and interventions on the disabled ‘other’. This research provides an alternative picture for the Disability Rights Movement in Australia, which frames disability within post-modernity, evidencing counter-hegemonic strategies to challenge privileged control, a commitment to liberation, a celebration of diversity and a reclaiming of public and private spaces.

Item ID: 5626
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: disability, disability rights movement, social movements, positioning, hegemony, power, hierarchy, modernity, postmodernity, Australia
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2009 23:27
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society > 169999 Studies in Human Society not elsewhere classified @ 50%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160806 Social Theory @ 50%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940101 Ability and Disability @ 100%
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