Special Issue "Interrogating Representations of dis/Ability within and through Material Culture"

A special issue of Societies (ISSN 2075-4698).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2015).

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Megan Strickfaden

Department of Human Ecology, Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2N1, Canada
Website | E-Mail
Interests: ability studies; artifact analysis; design studies; ethics; making; material culture studies; science and technology studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue invites manuscripts that engage with examining “things” in contemporary society that are about people with differing abilities or have been created for, with or by people with differing abilities. These “things” of material culture came to existence through a creation process that either imagined or included people with different abilities, yet once in existence these things are created and re-created by people through consistent engagement and re-engagement. Things and people are entwined in a loop of dynamic flux and performance. When considering material culture and dis/Ability, research is typically approached as universal design, inclusion and accessibility. This Special Issue takes an alternative approach by aiming to question societal representations of differing abilities and disability within and through material culture. For the purpose of exploring dis/Ability through material culture, representations refer to explicit representations through mediums such as photographs and drawings, as well as more implicit representations through codes, symbols and systems that speak to different abilities (e.g., ramps, stairs, Braille signage). As such, papers that explore things (large or small, from spaces to objects) through description and deep analysis will make up this Special Issue.

Manuscripts for this Special Issue should make connections among people, objects and sociocultural issues, which may include explorations, for example, into embodiment, equity, ethics, representation, or sustainability as these relate to dis/Ability and material culture. As such, of particular interest are research enquiries that look at themes through material culture including but not limited to: attachments, values, identities, and the meanings of objects for individuals within or in relation to society. Interdisciplinary researchers are particularly encouraged to submit work for this Special Issue to reflect the scholarly fields of ability studies, disability studies, design studies, material culture studies and science/technology studies.

Dr. Megan Strickfaden
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Societies is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • architecture
  • built environment
  • contemporary artifact creation
  • disability studies
  • heterogeneous human experience
  • human-object interfaces
  • sociocultural issues and theories
  • technology
  • urban spaces

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
On Footwear and Disability: A Dance of Animacy?
Societies 2017, 7(2), 16; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc7020016
Received: 21 February 2017 / Revised: 25 May 2017 / Accepted: 14 June 2017 / Published: 20 June 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1656 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In order to explore what an anthropological material culture approach to disability would comprise, we take Tim Ingold’s morphogenetic approach to life as continuously unfolding, a result of things engaged in a dance of animacy, and in processes of ‘making’ as our central [...] Read more.
In order to explore what an anthropological material culture approach to disability would comprise, we take Tim Ingold’s morphogenetic approach to life as continuously unfolding, a result of things engaged in a dance of animacy, and in processes of ‘making’ as our central point of departure. This approach allows for a continued understanding of disability’s constructed nature; however, this approach is one that has a material, and not a discursive, point of view. We will focus on footwear and explore its material and evolutionary history, and how it has been shaped throughout different historical periods and in different parts of the world. Our central understanding of a material approach to disability is one that concerns how body-objects, such as shoes, are to be remembered. Therefore, we start with research in an archive of human material culture, namely a collection of clothing and footwear, situated in North America. We will then focus on recent contemporary African and Asian engagement with prosthetic shoes for physically disabled people. These examples are then confronted with a well-known case from the Chinese cultural repertoire; namely, that of bound feet and lotus shoes. By examining many examples from across the globe, we intend to illustrate the many ways in which the body, shoes, and the ground, all correspond to each other in a dance of animacy. Disability is sometimes an instigator, and, in many cases, either a mediator or an accelerator, within this correspondence. Materially, the making and use of footwear is a central component to one being classified as a synaesthetic sentient being in the world. Shoes for disabled people are designed with the feet in mind, and their construction is a more labor-intense process than it would be for those who have lesser degrees of disability. It appears that disability is not a matter of either/or, but is instead a matter of degrees of vulnerability. The bodily function of walking, as well as shoes themselves, are articulated in space and time. Theoretically, we ask whether disability might also advance our understanding of humans beyond thinking in terms of normative standards and of the modern, given that the areas examined here involve processes of making, correspondence, and ultimately life itself. We claim that the human is to be found in the dance of animacy, shoes–feet–ground, and that disability is felt and articulated in materiality. We also claim that the posthuman, as observed in the human–machine connection, may have always existed after all. Finally, we will explain how the human and the modern can be found in the materially-made nature of disability, and we suggest that it might be better to orient future research from a transmodern perspective that contextualizes disability in multiple ways in which one might be considered to be modern. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Considering Material Culture in Assessing Assistive Devices: “Breaking up the Rhythm”
Societies 2016, 6(2), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc6020014
Received: 24 December 2015 / Revised: 5 March 2016 / Accepted: 14 April 2016 / Published: 19 April 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1785 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper reports on a project that looked at the meaning stroke survivors assigned to assistive devices. Material culture theory served as a framework to help stroke survivors explicitly consider [dis]ability as a discursive object with a socially constructed meaning that influenced how [...] Read more.
This paper reports on a project that looked at the meaning stroke survivors assigned to assistive devices. Material culture theory served as a framework to help stroke survivors explicitly consider [dis]ability as a discursive object with a socially constructed meaning that influenced how they thought about themselves with impairment. Material culture theory informed the design (taking and talking to their peers about photos of anything that assisted) and analysis of the meaning of the assistive devices project. In our analysis of the narratives, survivors assigned three types of meanings to the assistive devices: markers of progress, symbolic objects of disability, and the possibility of independent participation. Notably, the meaning of assistive devices as progress, [dis]ability, and [poss]ability was equally evident as participants talked about mobility, everyday activities, and services. We discuss how considering [dis]ability as a discursive object in the situation might have enabled stroke survivors to participate. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Beadwork and the Plasticity of Disability: (Un)Making Bodily Difference, Gender and Apprenticeship in Kinshasa, DR Congo
Societies 2016, 6(2), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc6020011
Received: 31 December 2015 / Revised: 21 March 2016 / Accepted: 30 March 2016 / Published: 7 April 2016
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Abstract
Plastic beads have recently become of importance in the lives of women with disabilities in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). Using a materialist approach that focuses on such specific items, this article deviates from most materialist approaches to disability that [...] Read more.
Plastic beads have recently become of importance in the lives of women with disabilities in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). Using a materialist approach that focuses on such specific items, this article deviates from most materialist approaches to disability that are focused on the built environment, medical objects, or assistive technology. Rather, the focus is on “things” (this term is to be understood as items being alive in meshworks of social relations) that are explanatory of disability, gender, and world formation or “making”. We show how the interplay of materials, gender, and disability results in acts of creation and performance, and involves an unfolding of life and orientation towards the future. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Bodies Folded in Migrant Crypts: Dis/Ability and the Material Culture of Border-Crossing
Societies 2016, 6(2), 10; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc6020010
Received: 31 December 2015 / Revised: 29 March 2016 / Accepted: 30 March 2016 / Published: 4 April 2016
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (233 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article considers media narratives that suggest that hiding in trucks, buses, and other vehicles to cross borders has, in fact, been a common practice in the context of migration to, and within, Europe. We aim to problematize how the tension between the [...] Read more.
This article considers media narratives that suggest that hiding in trucks, buses, and other vehicles to cross borders has, in fact, been a common practice in the context of migration to, and within, Europe. We aim to problematize how the tension between the materiality of bordering practices and human migrants generates a dis/abled subject. In this context, dis/ability may be a cause or consequence of migration, both in physical/material (the folding of bodies in the crypt) and cultural/semiotic terms, and may become a barrier to accessing protection, to entering and/or crossing a country, and to performing mobility in general. Dis/ability and migration have not been associated in the literature. We adopt an analytical symmetry between humans and non-humans, in this case between bodies and crypts. By suggesting an infected, ambivalent, and hybrid approach to the human subject, the body-crypt traveling border challenges the essentialist dichotomies between technology and biology, disability and impairment. The articles and reports upon which we rely were collected through extensive searches of databases/archives of online newspapers and news websites. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Taken for Granted: Material Relations Between Disability and Codes/Guidelines
Societies 2016, 6(1), 6; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc6010006
Received: 1 January 2016 / Revised: 1 February 2016 / Accepted: 17 February 2016 / Published: 23 February 2016
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (194 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper provides a critical examination of the taken for granted nature of the codes/guidelines used towards the creation of designed spaces, their social relations with designers, and their agency in designing for people with disabilities. We conducted case studies at three national [...] Read more.
This paper provides a critical examination of the taken for granted nature of the codes/guidelines used towards the creation of designed spaces, their social relations with designers, and their agency in designing for people with disabilities. We conducted case studies at three national museums in Canada where we began by questioning societal representations of disability within and through material culture through the potential of actor-network theory where non-human actors have considerable agency. Specifically, our exploration looks into how representations of disability for designing, are interpreted through mediums such as codes, standards and guidelines. We accomplish this through: deep analyses of the museums’ built environments (outdoors and indoors); interviewed curators, architects and designers involved in the creation of the spaces/displays; completed dialoguing while in motion interviews with people who have disabilities within the spaces; and analyzed available documents relating to the creation of the museums. Through analyses of our rich data set involving the mapping of codes/guidelines in their “representation” of disability and their contributions in “fixing” disability, this paper takes an alternative approach to designing for/with disability by aiming to question societal representations of disability within and through material culture. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Spatial Explorations and Digital Traces: Experiences of Legal Blindness through Filmmaking
Societies 2016, 6(1), 2; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc6010002
Received: 3 December 2015 / Revised: 22 December 2015 / Accepted: 31 December 2015 / Published: 6 January 2016
PDF Full-text (198 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Descriptions of legal blindness, as lived experience—involving continual movement between the world of sightedness and blindness—are largely absent within medical models of disability. In an effort to challenge depictions of blindness as pathology, researchers in this project worked with participants who are [...] Read more.
Descriptions of legal blindness, as lived experience—involving continual movement between the world of sightedness and blindness—are largely absent within medical models of disability. In an effort to challenge depictions of blindness as pathology, researchers in this project worked with participants who are legally blind, in a co-designed exploration of built spaces in the city of Edmonton, Canada. In this article we describe a collaborative research method through which participants shared stories while recording their movement through a shopping mall, an art gallery, and a gym. Through this project, participants often took the lead, determining the content and context of urban journeys. Stories and images shared through this collaboration suggest that legal blindness is an alternative way of knowing the world, with unique perceptual experiences, navigational strategies, and complexity that is often unacknowledged within a medically constructed blindness/sightedness binary. In describing the complex relationship between participants, researchers, architecture, and technology we will combine narrative forms of writing with actor-network theory. The sharing of stories, along with lived experiences has led to a project that revolves around ability, as opposed to disability. A link to the film is provided at the end of this article. Full article
Open AccessArticle
S-s-s-syncopation: Music, Modernity, and the Performance of Stammering (Ca. 1860–1930)
Societies 2015, 5(4), 744-759; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc5040744
Received: 23 September 2015 / Revised: 23 October 2015 / Accepted: 2 November 2015 / Published: 5 November 2015
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (685 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The modern history of disability, and of speech impediments in particular, has largely been written as one of medical discourse and (more recently) of social and cultural imaginations. The pathology of speech appears as an embodied, but ultimately intangible, issue due to the [...] Read more.
The modern history of disability, and of speech impediments in particular, has largely been written as one of medical discourse and (more recently) of social and cultural imaginations. The pathology of speech appears as an embodied, but ultimately intangible, issue due to the transient nature of sound itself. Once produced, it disappears, and seems to escape memory. In this text, stammering is approached as an object of material history. Drawing on the “paper trail” left by medical experts, popular entertainers and a handful of stammerers’ experiences, this paper examines the ways in which stammering was made material in the nineteenth century. The impediment not only provided (pseudo) medical actors with a lucrative market for various curative objects and practices, but also propelled the (sheet-)music business. Stammerers themselves appear in this story of materialization and market as both agents and objects. The cheap self-cures, medical manuals, sheet music and (later) recordings that were produced not only for, but also by, them, show how easily the impediment was aligned with the modern consumer’s identity and how the persona of the stammerer was, ultimately, lodged in the Western collective memory in very material ways. Full article
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