ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Theorising the Disability Experience

‘Power’ Is the Key

This paper illustrates how power relations in a society dominated by an able-bodied majority provide structural sanctions for the oppression and exclusion of the disabled. It critically evaluates the approaches developed by Kalpana Kannabiran and Martha Nussbaum to liberate the disabled, arguing that their basic premises are located within the able-bodied power paradigm. A fresh starting point for academicians and disability rights activists calls for a relocation of disability rights jurisprudence within the broader scheme of the power relations operating in a society. The elimination of the subject of power, the “other,” through a model of self-reflection, and the creation of an expansive notion of the self is essential in constructing a theoretical foundation for equal citizenship.

This paper is an outcome of many stimulating discussions on disability jurisprudence with Kalpana Kannabiran of the Council for Social Development at the Southern Regional Centre, Hyderabad. I am deeply grateful for her guidance and encouragement. I would also like to thank Sharon Fray-Witzer and David Poplar, my instructors at the Harvard Summer School, who sharpened my critical writing and analytical skills. My thanks also to my mentor and guide, Renjith Thomas of the National Law University, Jodhpur, who is always there to inspire and motivate me.


Civilisation is the process in which one gradually increases the number of people included in the term “we” or “us” and at the same time decreases those labeled “you” or “them” until that category has no one left in it—Howard Winters

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Updated On : 22nd Dec, 2017
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