The abject and the vulnerable: the twain shall meet: reflections on disability in the moral economy

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The meaning of impairment is often Janus-faced. On the one hand, it is associated with defect, deformity, monstrosity and other tropes that carry the weight of ontological ruin, haunting narratives of physical, mental or sensory catastrophe that disturb the normate sense of being human. Impairment is invested with the debilitating social and moral consequences that symbolise disability. Disavowed and repudiated by the non-disabled community, disability represents the murky, shadow side of existence that separates normal embodiment from its benighted, abject ‘other’. Disgust – on the part of non-disabled, ‘clean and proper’ subjects – is the likely emotional response to the pollution and impropriety that disability represents. The emotional relation between the two parties may be mired in normate repulsion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)829-846
Number of pages18
JournalSociological Review
Issue number4
Early online date12 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019



  • abject
  • disability
  • impairment
  • moral economy
  • vulnerable

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