Introducing Fieldnotes

This blog has been months in the making.  More accurately, I thought about it for many months before I had the time and creative energy to sit down and get it started.  (For more on writing and time vacuums, I strongly encourage you to check out Megan McArdle’s recent piece for the Atlantic Monthly“Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators.”)  Why, I had wondered for several years, was it so difficult to find discussion and analysis of disability issues in the contemporary U.S.?  Where was a centralized repository?  Why was disability grouped awkwardly in newspaper sections on “health,” “medicine,” and “science,” and what stories were erased by this categorization?  And what could be done to bridge the gap between academic, applied, and everyday understandings and experiences of disability?

Disability is everywhere and nowhere, visible yet all too often hidden from sight.  I wrestle with these realities, both as an anthropologist seeking to gain insights into the meanings and experiences of certain disability worlds, but also as the sister of a woman with multiple disabilities.  I hope to use this blog as a vehicle to probe these dual sides of disability today.  Indeed, disability is omnipresent in the media.  For a topic so marginalized, disability themes appear with what I find to be almost shocking frequency.  Still, I found myself looking for further discussion and analysis, as well as a way to consolidate links, data, and general ruminations in one spot.

This blog focuses on disability, which I use as an intentionally unwieldy and ambiguous category of difference, whether perceived or actual.  As an anthropologist, I am particularly attuned to the way that notions of disability change over time and across different groups. What is aberrant now might not be in future eras and vice versa.  Understandings of “good,” “right,” and “normal” bodies and minds shift and change shape, and reveal so much about broader social values, beliefs, and practices.  I use disability to chip away at the unstated and tacit assumptions about beauty, the good life, family, love, success, and more.  Disability is a moving target.  This page is part of my modest effort to track its path in one moment, one space, one admittedly vague social world.


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