Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Reflection on "normality, power and culture"

kpalacios's picture

This week we read “Introduction: Normality, Power and Culture” by Lennard Davis which focused on the creation of the idea of normality which emerged from a focus on statistics. This idea of normality led to the creation of the bell curve based on the idea of normal distribution which worked to value the average more than values or traits that differed from the average. This idea was largely used by Eugenicist to advocate for the norming of the population through eugenist ideas that focused on categorizing disabled people as deviant from the average. Despite the importance of focusing on the norm for some traits like height and intelligence it was important for eugenist to create a ranking system instead of only dictating the average as the most important because in these cases some deviants from the average were seen as good and important. Being able to read through this history and how intertwined these ideas of statistics and eugenics were at the time was really enlightening because it helps demonstrate that these ideas were very prominent and largely supported at the time which shows the major issues with how our society has treated disabled people throughout history. While this is a very wrong and harmful idea to us now, it was pervasive at that time and was largely supported by many prominent figures. This obsession with normality was influenced by the ideas discussed by Darwin and while he largely focused on non-human species it is interesting to see how quickly these general ideas were twisted to help support the already-held beliefs at the time. Acknowledging and fully understanding this history is one of the only ways to actually begin learning from the past and making positive steps forward to support disabled people now.