This Research Collaboration – funded by the White Rose Consortium – brings together researchers from the disciplines of critical psychology, education, sociology and social policy across the Universities of Sheffield, Leeds and York to interrogate the ideology and practice of ableism. Hitherto, a lot of research has engaged with the practices of disablism (the exclusion of people with physical, sensory and cognitive impairments), bodies and technology. Recently, however, disability research and research on embodiment has become more mindful of the wider processes of ableism. These processes include a host of psychological, social, economic, cultural, imaginary and technological conditions that privilege normative ways of living; promote an idealisation of able-bodiedness; cherish particular forms of personhood and psychological health; spatially organise environments around normative citizens; create institutional bias towards autonomous and independent bodies; feed into wider neo-liberal and advanced capitalist forms of production.

These processes not only draw upon concepts of ability and normativity – often associated with dis/ability and un/healthy divides – but also make use of idealised discourses associated with whiteness, masculinity, entrepreneurship, independence, labour, responsibility, adulthood and accountability. Our proposed collaboration will create necessary space for scholars to theorise aspects of ableism and offer empirical and analytical responses. Our research covers different disciplinary and practitioner positions including educational psychology, social policy, health, technology and sociology. A number of ableist questions emerge that are ripe for further debate and research, including:

(1)  To what extent are moves towards inclusive education for disabled students stymied by an educational culture that is founded on the ableist notion of the entrepreneurial student?

(2)  In what ways do ideas and practices of human enhancement as they apply to the workplace challenge or reassert ableism?

(3)  Do health and social care recreate or subvert ableist notion of psychological and physical health?

(4)  How do political movements and their associated organisations reproduce or contest narrow definitions of citizenship?

(5)  To what extent is it possible and desirable to synthesise theories from critical disability studies, feminism, critical race and queer perspectives?

(6)  To what extent does disability provide possibilities for challenging ableist agendas?

Over the next 12 months the White Rose Studies of Ableism Research Collaboration will be hosting a number of events. Please keep following these pages, over the next few weeks, to find out more!

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