Mediating Ableism: Border work and resistance in the biographical narratives of young disabled people

  • Tobias Buchner
Schlagworte: ableism, normalcy, biographical research, technologies of the self, border work


Ableist discourses create normalising 'maelstroms', forcing subjects to (re-)produce hegemonic ideas of 'the able body'. Thus, everyone is exposed to ableist thinking and practices and has to 'relate' to them. In this paper, I will pick up a question addressed by disability studies scholar Fiona Kumari Campbell (2008): how do disabled people live with ubiquitous ableism or, rather, how are ableist discourses mediated in the processes of subjectification? In doing so, I will focus on an institution that has been considered as key for (re-)producing power relations between subjects: schools. Practices in schools are informed by hegemonic discourses, imposed on students (and teachers) to produce what Foucault has called 'docile bodies', to generate 'normal' subjects. I will explore how ableist normalities, structuring the spaces of mainstream schools, impact on the subjectivities of young disabled persons and analyse these subjectification processes from a biographical point of view. In the following section, I will start with the introduction of ableism as a critique of (body) normalities, followed by a discussion of subjectification as a 'sensitizing concept' for reading biographical data. After that, I take a closer look at practices in schools and their relation to ableism. In the empirical part of this paper, a case study of a young woman from Austria will be used to reconstruct a specific type of lived experience linked to ableism in mainstream schools. The inherent structure of this case will be compared with two other case studies of young men who also went through mainstream educational settings, in order to contrast the modes of ableist normalisation-imperatives that occurred, the actors involved in generating these imperatives and, finally, the ways that disabled young people mediate these discourses imposed on them. In the last part of the paper, I conclude with a reflection of the normalities displayed in the cases and their meaning for developing inclusive practices in schools.


Tobias Buchner
Mag. Tobias Buchner ist Bildungswissenschaftler und wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter an der außeruniversitären Forschungseinrichtung queraum.kultur- und sozialforschung in Wien. Buchner setzt sich in seinen Arbeiten mit Subjektivierung und Biographie, inklusiver Bildung und partizipatorischer Forschung auseinander.
Buchner, T. (2015). Mediating Ableism: Border work and resistance in the biographical narratives of young disabled people. Zeitschrift Für Inklusion, (2). Abgerufen von