Culture and the Media
The Normal Subject
(1) Finkelstein, V. (1975). To Deny or Not to Deny Disability. In: Magic Carpet XXVII.1 (New Year), pp. 31-38. Reprinted in Brechin, A., Liddiard, P. and Swain, J. (eds) (1981). Handicap in a Social World: A Reader. Sevenoaks: Hodder and Stoughton, pp. 34-36. Retrieved 2 September 2006 from here.
(2) Swain, J. and Cameron, C. (1999). Unless Otherwise Stated: Discourses of Labelling and Identity in Coming Out. In: Corker, M. and French, S. (eds) Disability Discourse. Buckingham: Open University Press, pp. 68-78.

In his imaginative thought-experiment Finkelstein explores the implications of a community in which all the inhabitants are wheelchair-users. Swain and Cameron go on to argue that the very notion of disability is one constructed by society, and is used to help to define and privilege those who are considered 'normal' subjects.

Further Reading

Barnes, C. (1992). Disabling Imagery and the Media: An Exploration of the Principles for Media Represenations of Disabled People. Halifax: Ryburn/British Council of Orgaisations of Disabled People. Retrieved 2 April 2008 from The Disability Archive UK, Leeds University, here. Barnes analyses representations of disability, particularly commonly recurring stereotypes.

Barnes, C., Oliver, M. and Barton, L. (eds) (2002). Disability Studies Today. Cambridge: Polity. A selection of sociologically-oriented essays on disability studies.

Bauman, H-Dirksen L. (ed.) (2007). Open Your Eyes: Deaf Studies Talking. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Collection focusing on deaf studies and its relation to issues of identity, gender, sexuality, power and notions of the normal.

Brechin, A., Liddiard, P. and Swain, J. (eds) (1981). Handicap in a Social World: A Reader. Sevenoaks: Hodder and Stoughton. An early collection of readings on disability studies.

Canguilhem, G. (1991). The Normal and the Pathological. New York: Zone Books. Philosophical analysis of the emerging conception of medical normality during the nineteenth century. See Gutting (1989) for a useful introduction to Canguilhem's difficult but important ideas.

Coleman, L. M. (2006). Stigma: An Enigma Demystified. In: Davis, L. (ed.) The Disability Studies Reader. 2nd ed., pp. 216-31. A discussion of the concept and process of stigmatization, building on the work of Goffmann (1968).

Corker, M. and French, S. (1999). Disability Discourse. Buckingham: Open University Press. A selection of fascinating essays on disability, discourse and identity.

Corker, M. and Shakespeare, T. (eds) (2002). Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory. London: Continuum. Collection of essays which brings the tools of contemporary theory to the question of disability studies.

Davis, L. J. (1995). Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body. London: Verso. Addresses the "tyranny of the norm" from a disability perspective, focusing particularly on deafness.

Davis, L. (ed.) (2006). The Disability Studies Reader. 2nd ed. London: Routledge. Substantial reader including theory, fiction and poetry, as well as Davis' own essay 'Constructing Normalcy'.

Davis, L. (2006). Constructing Normalcy: The Bell Curve, the Novel, and the Invention of the Disabled Body in the Nineteenth Century. In: The Disability Studies Reader. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, pp. 9-28. On the recent historical development of the notion of normal (average) people, illustrated with examples drawn from literature.

Deutsch, H. E. and Nussbaum, F. (eds) (2000). 'Defects': Engendering the Modern Body. University of Michigan Press. Essays on disability, monstrosity and sexual difference in the eighteenth century.

Ferguson, P. M., Ferguson, D. L. and Taylor, S. J. (eds) (1992). Interpreting Disability: A Qualitative Reader. London: Teachers College Press. Interpretivist approaches to disability; Part IV deals with representations of disability in culture and the media.

Foucault, M. (2003). Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1974-75. Burchell, G., trans. New York: Picador. On the historical development during the nineteenth century of the notion of abnormal individuals, particularly within juridical and psychiatric discourse.

Goffman, E. (1968). Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Harmondsworth: Penguin. An early, influential text on 'stigmatised' individuals.

Goggin, G. and Newell, C. (2003). Digital Disability: The Social Construction of Disability in New Media. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield. Discussion of the use of new media in relation to disablity issues.

Grandin, T. (2006). Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism. Expanded ed. Vintage. Grandin's considered account of her own experience of autism, which raises interesting issues of identity and subjectivity.

Gutting, G. (1989). Canguilhem's History of Science. In Michel Foucault's Archaeology of Scientific Reason: Science and the History of Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 32-52. A helpful introduction to the work of Georges Canguilhem on normality.

Hacking, I. (1990). The Taming of Chance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 19 concerns 'The Normal State'.

Mitchell, D. T. and Snyder, S. L. (2001). Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. An account of representations of disability in key texts from literature and film.

Oliver, M. (1990). The Politics of Disablement. London: Macmillan Education. Oliver synthesises the social model of disability with a Marxist approach to production.

Oliver, M. (2001). Disability Issues in the Postmodern World. In: Barton, L. Disability, Politics and the Struggle for Change. London: David Fulton, pp. 149-59. Discussion of contemporary and future disability from a Marxist perspective.

Riddell, S. and Watson, N. (2003). Disability, Culture and Identity. Prentice Hall. Essays explicitly addressing the interelation of disability and questions of self and subjectivity.

Sacks, O. (1985). The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. London: Duckworth. A selection of case histories, or biographies, in what Sacks calls the "neurology of identity" (p. x). See especially the short Preface.

Sacks, O. (1995). An Anthropologist on Mars. London: Picador. More of the same; see especially the short Preface.

Stiker, H. (2000). A History of Disability. Sayers, W., trans. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. A philosophically informed text which traces the history of western cultural responses to disability, from ancient times to the present, focusing especially on the question of difference and similarity.

Swain, J., Finkelstein, V., French, S. and Oliver, M. J. (eds) (2004). Disabling Barriers - Enabling Environments. 2nd ed. London: Sage. Key texts in disability studies, from a predominantly British perspective.

Thomas, C. (2002). Disability Theory: Key Ideas, Issues and Thinkers. In: Barnes, C., Oliver, M. and Barton, L. (eds). Disability Studies Today. Cambridge: Polity. Good overview of key theoretical approaches in disability studies.

Thomson, R. G. (1997). Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press. On disability, representation and identity, with a feminist focus. Includes a discussion of the term 'normate'.

Tremain, S. L. (ed.) (2005). Foucault and the Government of Disability. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Essays taking an explicitly foucauldian approach to questions of disability; theoretically dense.

Tyler, T. (2014). Misanthropy without Humanity. Paradoxa 26, pp. 239-45. Briefly applies Canguilhem's ideas to the videogame Plague Inc. Available here.


The Disability Archive UK, Centre for Disability Studies, Leeds University. Contains a huge quantity of academic writing on disability studies.