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What is Disability Culture? A Response to Petra Kuppers

laurentanel's picture

“Disability culture is not a thing, but a process.” It will also take a more in-depth process for me to fully grasp the concept of this claim. Throughout this introduction to the book Disability Culture and Community Performance, I was waiting for Petra Kuppers to unveil her key point that would diminish my confusion. However, what I now realize is that maybe the fog of navigating her writing is mimicking the troubles trying to define the disability community and disability culture. She makes clear that the “process” of disability culture is undoing the “history of exclusions” that people with disabilities experience when they are limited by the able-bodied world around them. To me this suggests that strictly defining what it means to be disabled is itself a form of these boundaries and limitations. Another exclusive circumstance that Kuppers mentions is the idea of restricting disabled folks because “they could hurt themselves.” This is given as an example with dance, but can be applied to any situation where an able-bodied person might think they are looking out for someone else while they are instead being patronizing. To follow, Kuppers explains that instead of defining disability culture, it needs to be approached through many different forms. Her direct illustration of this is the dynamic nature of her writing. She says that, like accessibility, it can be taken in through many forms. So I can’t say that I can completely answer the question of what disability culture is, but Kuppers made it clear that it is more of an experience than a statement.


acwest's picture

I completely agree with your analysis of Kupper's reading. Disability culture is a process that is done in part by undoing the "histories of exclusions". However, I believe that the process of embodying should be added. Kupper says, "dance practice open to people with different forms of embodiment, including disability." According to Oxford dictionary, embodiment is "a tangible or visible form of an idea, quality, or feeling," so I believe that Kupper is trying to undo the exclusionary history but reclaiming the body and space. While this is anecdotally used in terms of dance, this can be seen in many different ways such as language, stimming, and other creative outlets. Other people and communities can have different processes and therefore there are many different "disability cultures". As people try to navigate fogginess that is embodiment and undoing historical exclusions, different solutions are found and these too are disability cultures. Perhaps, the hodge-podge of disability cultures are microcosms that make up the larger umbrella term that is Disability Culture.