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Additional DRF Seminar: Disability Politics & Activism – Experiences from Iceland w/ Embla Guðrúnar Ágústsdóttir and Freyja Haraldsdóttir

Apologies for the short notice, but all welcome to a (last minute) and additional Disability Research Forum seminar

Date: Monday 2nd March, 2-4, Room 10211

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Embla Guðrúnar Ágústsdóttir and Freyja Haraldsdóttir have for the last decade been at the forefront in disability and feminist activism in Iceland. They have lectured about disabilism, ableism, stereotypes, prejudice, the educational system, sexuality, professionalism, intersectionality, cultural and structural violence and more in schools, colleges and universities in Iceland and on conferences around Europe.

They both worked at the Independent Living Centre in Iceland from 2009-2014 and pioneered work concerning personal assistance and deinstitutionalization. They also lead development of peer support and counseling for disabled people who were seeking to get personal assistance to gain independence and freedom in their lives.

In March 2014 Freyja and Embla founded Tabú, informal space for self-identified disabled women to participate in activism, share their experience and knowledge with each other and tell their stories, both in saver spaces and publicly available on the web site of Tabú (see https://tabu2014.wordpress.com/english/).

The aim of Tabú is also to open up discussions about things that on are often not allowed or shied away from in public talk about disability – things that are considered a taboo. That is done by publishing articles, giving presentations, organizing workshops and taking political action.

Tabú’s work is based on the principles of feminism, the Independent Living Movement, the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, queer theory and ideas on intersectionality.

Freyja and Embla are living in Manchester until August 2015 studying at Manchester Metropolitan University as exchange students. Embla’s academic background is in Sociology and Gender Studies and Freyja’s in social pedagogy, Practical Equality Studies and Gender Studies.

In this presentation Freyja and Embla will discus their experience of activism, both the Independent Living Movement in Iceland and Tabú. They will explain why they decided to change approach in disability activism and how the transition from a male dominant space to building up a feminist platform in activism has developed. They will also shed a light on the importance of international cooperation and the opportunity of working with disabled women around the world.

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Reminder: Next DRF Seminar Tues. 10th Feb. 2015

The details for the next DRF seminar are as follows:

Date: Tuesday 10th February, 2-4, Room 10111

Slot 1: Harriet Cameron, University of Sheffield, UK: Dyslexia, Discourse and Higher Education

Under UK law dyslexia is a disability and the label entitles students within higher education to certain supports. However, students with the label I have come across during my work as a specialist tutor conceptualise dyslexia in different ways.  Some say they feel they are just ‘stupid’, some consider dyslexia a medical condition, some feel that dyslexia is a positive, and others feel they are simply different, part of a neuro-diverse population.  My position is that the ways dyslexia is constructed in any particular interaction, or in any wider text, have implications for how students with the label construct their identities (and others’ identities) as academic learners. In turn, I believe certain ways of being and doing are opened up or closed down by the ‘subject positions’ (Davies & Harre, 2001) these constructions offer. Today I will discuss a discourse analysis of two focus group conversations between dyslexic university students and myself. In this session I will talk about the different subject positions participants took up or offered, the wider discourses they drew upon, and the implications of these for ‘being’ and identity within the higher education context.  While this study has been undertaken in the UK, the implications are relevant to our understandings of learning and identity across the western world where individualistic and meritocratic ideologies pervade educational discourse. In helping students, teachers, and other educational practitioners to become more aware of the discursive production of ‘facts’ like dyslexia, the hope is that they will become better able to critically interrogate their own learning identities and have more awareness of the ways they position themselves and others.

  • Davies,B., and Harre,R. (2001) Positioning: The Discursive Production of Selves. Reading 19 in in Wetherell,M., Taylor,S., Yates,S. (Eds.) (2001) Discourse, Theory and Practice: A Reader. 261-271. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage Publications/ The Open University.  

Slot 2: Teodor Mladenov, Kings College London, UK: Disability in state socialism and postsocialism

 Abstract:  Seminal works in disability studies (Finkelstein, 1980; Oliver, 1990; Stone, 1984) have shown that the analysis of large-scale transformations – such as the one from feudalism to industrial capitalism – is indispensable for understanding and critique of present-day constructions of disability. The transition from state socialism to postsocialist capitalism in Eastern Europe invites similar considerations – the genealogy of disability policy in postsocialist countries necessarily leads back to their socialist past (Philips, 2009). Proceeding from these presumptions, in this presentation I will first outline some political-economic features of state socialism that underpinned its productivism. Productivism will be regarded as a mechanism (‘assemblage’) that reduces humans to resources utilisable for the enhancement of productive output. I will then explore some ways in which productivism has shaped disability policy in the socialist countries of the Eastern Bloc. Finally, I will look at the ways in which this state socialist legacy has influenced present-day disability policy in the postsocialist region. I will welcome reflections on similarities and differences with ‘advanced liberal’ (Rose, 1996) societies such as the UK.

  • Finkelstein, V. (1980) Attitudes and Disabled People: Issues for Discussion. New York: World Rehabilitation Fund.
  •  Oliver, M. (1990) The Politics of Disablement. London: Macmillan.
  •  Phillips, S. D. (2009) ‘“There are no invalids in the USSR!”: A missing Soviet chapter in the new disability history’, Disability Studies Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 3, n.p.
  •  Rose, N. (1996) ‘Governing “advanced” liberal democracies’, in A. Barry, T. Osborne and N. Rose (eds) Foucault and Political Reason: Liberalism, Neo-Liberalism and Rationalities of Government. London: UCL Press, pp. 37-64.
  • Stone, D. (1984) The Disabled State. London: Macmillan.

Next DRF Seminar: Wednesday 25th March, 1-3, Room 10111 ~ with Kirsty Liddiard (University of Sheffield) and Nick Hodge (Sheffield Hallam University).