CULTURAL MYTHS RELATED TO DISABILITY Sunil Deepak, 2001

Introduction

Cheryl Marie Wade is "the Gimp, the Cripple, the Crazy Lady, the Woman with Juice" -- you can't exterminate her. Like Kali, she embraces all and is exultant in who she is. What grabs me about this poem is the identification with the community of people with disabilities. I feel that so strongly. Don't give me a euphemism that makes you feel better, I am my brothers and sisters. (Ellis, 1997)

This paper considers some of the issues related to disability culture, including it’s contraposition to the way mainstream cultures dis-empower and oppress disabled persons, particularly with reference to the way religious myths and scriptures participate in and determine the creation of social and cultural barriers surrounding disabled persons. The paper also analyses the development of disability culture and disabled arts movement, and their role in empowering disabled persons.

Understanding Disability

Traditional ways of looking at disabled persons in different cultures range from disability seen as divine punishment to disability conferring special powers. Most of them link disability with issues of charity, helplessness, misfortune, etc. The medical model of looking at disabled persons, developed in the West especially during the era of industrialization, sees disability as a result of physical or functional abnormality. It is concerned with classifying the different kinds of disabilities and quantifying them and labelling them. Thus, in the medical model disabled persons are mainly seen as sick persons or patients, who need some intervention.

“Severely disabled" is defined as above knee and double amputees, blind people, people with hemiplegia, paraplegia, quadriplegia, Hansen's disease and other conditions which restrict a person's ability to function in normal roles. According to recent estimates, there are approximately 30-40,000 amputees in Cambodia, most of them men between the ages of 19 and 35. Due to the large presence of landmines throughout the country (4-6 million), the number of amputees increases by about 150-200 each month. (Bonnet Marc, 1997)

The disabled persons have themselves defined disability as a loss or limitation of opportunities to take part in the normal life of the community on an equal level with others due to physical and social barriers (DPI, 1982, p. 105). This social model of disability clearly contrasted with the traditional and medical views of disability. Disabled persons organizations, over the last few decades, have launched movements for fighting against the community and social barriers.

Complexity of Culture: Theoretical considerations about culture, its meanings, its representations, its development, etc. can be extremely complex. There are many theories of what constitutes or does not constitute a culture.

Firstly, the meaning of culture, as well as processes of identity development through acculturation, are bound up in what I call particular world views, i.e., views stemming from scholarly work internationally, based on commonly held ideologies and applicable cross-nationally. (Peters, S. 2000, p. 585)

Specifically, most scholars agree that the first influential definition of culture was set forth by E. B. Tylor, a British anthropologist. In Primitive cultures (1871), Tylor defined culture as: “..that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society (in Kuper, 1999, p. 56)

Kroeber & Kluckhohn classified and categorized 164 definitions of culture globally in 1952 according to descriptive definitions, historical definitions, normative definitions, psychological definitions, structural definitions and genetic definitions. (Kroeber & Kluckhohn, 1952, cited in Peters S., 2000, p. 586-587)

For this discussion, this paper considers “culture” in more simple ways. Human beings live in groups, in which families and kinship relationships play a central part. Each individual being lives according to his/her own values, beliefs and norms, which constitute the individual’s culture.

[it] … includes symbolic aspects of human society, such as beliefs, rituals, customs and values, as well as work patterns, leisure activities and material goods .. While values are ‘abstract ideals’, norms encompass the rules or guidelines of what is acceptable in social life. (Barnes and Mercer, 2001, unit 1/p. 2)

A group of people sharing a set of common or similar values, beliefs and norms thus share a common culture. So “within context of sociology the word ‘culture’ is generally used to refer to an overarching set of values and norms associated with a particular group, community, nation or society.” (Barnes and Mercer, 2001, unit 2/p. 2). These shared values and norms are dynamic, changing as a result of experiences of life and interaction with “others”.

Cultures everywhere in the world were characterized by an integration of content and forms, historical processes, certain uniformities (especially language) and values. (Peters S., 2000, p. 587)

There are some basic values which may be shared by all human beings, especially those related to the basic human needs and roles, like family relationships, need for shelter and food, etc. which can be considered as part of a universal culture. However, other tangible aspects of culture, influencing the daily lives of people, could be more circumscribed geographically and assist in the creation of common identity for majority of persons living in that area, different from those living in other areas. In each geographically defined areas (nations, states, regions, cities, etc.) there are majority cultures based on the common identity which, dominate the lives of those minority groups, who share the same geographical space but not all the values and norms of that culture.

Dominant or hegemonic cultures are often perceived as oppressive by some sections of society. As a consequence oppressed groups sometimes develop their own cultural norms and values. These then provide members with an individual and collective defence mechanism against oppression, as well as a form of cultural resistance. ..In many ways therefore, these and other subcultural forms are important mechanisms for social change in the sense that they represent a growing and general dissatisfaction with dominant cultural values. (Barnes & Mercer, 2001, unit 2/p. 2)

My own view is that Western Society is diverse, peopled with groups who spring from different histories, beliefs and experiences. Despite this richness of difference, prevailing values and cultural norms drive from and predominantly benefit a particular dominant male group. These values are universalized and upheld as shared societal values; to the extent that one is different from the dominant group, be it on the basis of gender, ethnicity, race, age, sexual preference or biological ability, one is devalued and marginalized. This devaluation serves to maintain the social order. (Home, 2000)

Empowerment: The Webster dictionary defines “empowerment” as “to give official authority or legal power to” or “to enable” or “to promote the self-actualization or influence of”.

Empowerment is a word much in vogue now, but initially its use was linked to movement by grass-roots organizations fighting for and with poor and marginalized groups in the developing world, for human rights. Paulo Friere’s theories of social oppression and Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas of self-reliant village communities (Sarvodaya), have significant links with what we mean by empowerment. However, as happens too often to the words in vogue, they may also be used in completely different ways.

Brian Hubbard's sharing of his personal experiences of successfully confronting two devastating challenges -blindness and profound deafness-to go on to become a very successful Clinical Social Worker and therapist as well as a leader in the psychosocial field of the disabled and the chronically medically ill (he was the founder of the nation's first program to provide professional care to the disabled and chronically ill on a community-based level as well as the Father of EMPOWERMENT THERAPY, a new therapy approach for other professionals), leaves the readers feeling, whatever their challenges, that they are definitely not alone, but, rather, someone is in their corner who truly understands not only the struggle, but what it really takes to rise above these struggles. (Hubbard 1998)

For the discussion in this paper, empowerment is considered more in terms of the process generated by disabled persons coming together, sharing and confronting ideas and views, and together discovering their capacity for expressing their feelings, views about the world and about its perceptions related to disability.

Disability Culture

Recognition of any collective culture is linked to the possibility of sharing of those experiences and views, which define the diversity of the individuals holding them from the rest of the society. In the past, the different barriers surrounding disabled persons had made it impossible for disabled persons to come together, to communicate with each other for this sharing of experiences. Only recently, over the past few decades, this possibility of sharing of experiences became feasible and is closely linked to the starting of social movement by organizations of disabled persons. Thus, many aspects of the Disability culture, the cultural values, which define the belonging of disabled persons a separate culture, are still in a process of formation.

A syncretic world-view of disability culture decentres disability identity from dominant/supremacist ideologies, while it reconstructs disability as Subject instead of objectified Other, and at the same time refigures the notion of self as an aesthetic and enacted identity. The roots of disabled cultural identity are elements of culture contained in the historical/linguistic world-view where we have collectively produced our own cultural meanings, subjectivities and images; e.g. a common language/lexicon that connects pride and self-love, cohesive social communities. (Peters S., 2000, p. 598)

Disability culture is related to use of creative arts for self-expression, about discovery of pride in one’s diversity, about fighting against stereotypes and negative imagery existing in mainstream culture. To understand the links between “Disability Culture” and the role it can and does play in empowering disabled people, it is important to understand how mainstream dominant cultures and the society disempower the disabled people. The social, psychological and physical barriers created by the society around disabled persons, stand on the fundaments of the images of disability presented in the mainstream cultural media.

Imagery of disabled people in the mainstream cultures: The technical innovations over the past few centuries, and especially in the 20th century, have raised the importance of media in creating and influencing mainstream cultures. Thus starting from the invention of paper and printing press, through newspapers, radio, television and internet, more and more people can read, hear, communicate and see the representations of reality designed and presented by these media controlled by the dominant culture groups. Therefore, these representations are strongly influenced by beliefs and value-systems of disabling mainstream cultures in different countries in presenting certain images of disability.

The researchers, many of whom are people with disabilities themselves, consider disability not from medical or social service perspective, but in terms of cultural formulations and depictions. They look at a range of cultural expression as varied as novels and movies, public policy, architecture, urban planning, philosophy and law. They gauge how stereotypes -– talk of “abnormalities”, “defects”, “invalids”, and even “monstrosities” – have come to be accepted. (Monaghan, 1998)

Dr. Longmore offers some unsparing words about telethons for disabilities, with fading celebrities pitching for funds and flanked by visiting athletes, corporate officials, and perhaps a recent Miss. America. These combinations of “patriotic rally and religious revival” serve as “moral allegories of cleansing and renewal” to demonstrate “the persistence of public virtue”. (Monaghan, 1998)

Ronnie’s feats were described as “defying and taming the fury of the waves with the grace and power of a real champion on a single leg upon a surfing board thus proclaiming to the world courage and determination to succeed against the hopelessness of human disability and despair…” (Gomez, 2000)

Traditions influencing the perceptions about disability

Most of the existing beliefs and values related to disabled persons in the mainstream culture have clear links with traditional myths and religious scriptures. In spite of the other differences in the cultures, these beliefs and values are often very similar in different parts of the world.

So much of resistance over generations has been built on the passing on of history, the building of culture – telling stories of what has passed for the sake of what will come to pass. (Crow L., 2000, p. 859)

Religious traditions and myths related to disability in different cultures: In the western world, the Judeo-Christian religious traditions have strongly influenced the mainstream cultures. Bible presents many different episodes of miraculous healing of the “cripples, lepers and the deformed” and advocates compassion and charity towards them.

..dominant groups in society reduce minority culture to a discourse of the Other – who is said to lack any redeeming community traditions, collective voice or historical importance. These hegemonic discourses of the Other are formed in three traditions: the Judeo-Christian racist logic, the psycho-sexual racist logic, and the scientific racist logic. In terms of disability, the Judeo-Christian logic sees disability as the curse of God. The psycho-sexual racist logic views disability as defecation, violation and subordination. The scientific racist logic regulates disability by standards of aesthetics and cultural norms. (Peters S., 2000, p. 588)

Takkanah in Talmud, are the rulings of rabbis to guide the daily lives and behaviours of the faithful Jews. These provide different examples about the need of compassion and care towards persons with impairments: Whosoever turns his eyes from practice of charity (should be regarded) as though he were an idolater. (Chajes, 1952, p. 156)

Thus they legalized the marriage of a girl minor that people might not treat her as ownerless property and the marriage of a deaf mute women… The measure, again, not to declare valid the divorce of a mentally defective woman in order that she should not be treated by unscrupulous people as piece of ownerless property. (Chajes, 1952, p. 99-100)

Even before the Judeo-Christian influence, the Greek culture had equally profound impact on the western world.

Hephaetus, blacksmith to the gods and a god himself though he was lame. Hephaetus is the butt of gods’ cruel humour … the treatment of Hephaetus .. shows the ancient Greek’s “deep sense of disquiet and uneasiness” about people with disabilities extends even to Mount Olympus. (Green, 1998)

There are many different religious traditions in South Asia. The Hindu epic Ramayan (Parasher, 1999) has profoundly affected and influenced the cultures in South Asia with impact on people as far away as Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand. For many Hindus, Ram and Sita, the principal characters of the book are considered as ideals in terms of perfect man and woman. It is not uncommon while growing up in a Hindu home to be reminded about the duties of good son who obeys the parents without questioning, or about the good wife who is willing to walk through fire to prove her purity to her husband. In this epic there are different references to disabled persons. The story of Shravan Kumar, presents him as a dutiful son, who takes care of his blind parents, who are completely dependent upon him for all their care. Another disabled person in the story Manthara, the hunchbacked maidservant of the queen Kekayi, who poisons the queen’s heart against her step son. There is yet another episode is linked to disability, in which, Surpanakha, the beautiful sister of the rival king Ravana, who is attracted by two brothers, Ram and Laskman, and to refuse her persistent advances of love, Lakshman cuts her nose, rendering her disable and implying that disabled women have no right for sexuality (Ghai, 2001).

Jainism is another religion in the Indian subcontinent, based on concepts of non-violence and compassion towards all living creatures. Some Hindu and Jain traditional writings do take note of the resistance of disabled persons towards negative imagery associated with them in the dominant culture:

The Jaina community in South Asia recognized, probably in the fifth or sixth century BC, that people with visually apparent disabilities or diseases can become annoyed if their condition is publicly announced. ...The law code of Manu and the Arthshastra went further in prescribing fines for abusive language, including the irritation of ‘reverse’ or euphemistic terms. None of these prescriptions can be shown actually to have made any difference to public or private use of language; nevertheless, the annoyance has been noted for past 2500 years. (Miles M., 2000, p. 605).

Buddhism is another religious tradition which, started in the Indian subcontinent and spread to the far East, up to Japan and Korea. All these religions, also share beliefs in reincarnation and influence of deeds in the past lives on the present lives, the concept of Karma. Thus the cause of impairments is located in the sins in the past lives and the disabling barriers existing in the communities are justified as the just punishment for those sins. For example, in the Buddhist literature there is the story of Khujjutara, a hunchback servant in the king’s palace, who decides to change her life after listening to Buddha’s sermon:

..the unprecedented transformation from deformed maidservant to honoured teacher of the Law was endorsed by the Buddha, who also sketched Khujjutara’s history for his disciples’ instruction. In an earlier birth she had mocked a deformed holy man at the royal court of Benares, imitating his stoop. She thus earned herself a ‘corrective’ or educational rebirth as a hunchback, so that progress of her soul should not be impeded.. (Miles M., 2000, p. 611)

Zoroastrian religion arose in Persia and its followers have been victims of religious persecution for centuries, seeking exile in many other countries, especially in India. In the Zoroastrian Vendidad, the prophet’s vision of an ideal future state provided for eugenic selection so that “There shall be no humpbacked, none bulged forward there, no impotent, no lunatic; no one malicious, no liar, no one spiteful, none jealous; no one with decayed tooth, no leprous.. (Translation of Darmesteter, 1895, p. 17 cited by Miles M., 2000, p. 605).

Another antique culture going back to at least 3000 years BC, has been the Egyptian culture. “The Book of Dead”, is an antique collection of prayers and rituals for safeguarding the passage of the dead to the afterlife and it clearly expresses fears against impaired bodies:

I shall wake up in peace…I shall not be lacking in any member; mine eyes shall not be dimmed; Mine features shall not be changed; My ear shall not be deaf; My body shall be established perfect and shall neither be ruined nor destroyed on this earth. (Budge, 1926, P. 256)

Africa is considered as the cradle of humanity, where the first Homo Erectus was born, spreading then to the rest of the world. Religious traditions of Africa, passed through generations in oral form only, and their origin is lost in the mists of time. The San rock-paintings in Kalahari desert, showing religious ceremonies of Shamans, date back to more than 30,000 years. Often, Africa is seen as one uniform culture. However, in reality, Africa is a mosaic of different tribes, each with its own distinct culture. For example, the Yoruba population groups are in West and Central Africa. Through slave-trade, many of them reached Caribbean, Central and South Americas. Yoruban cultural beliefs continue to have a deep influence in countries like Brazil, Haiti and Cuba. Obatala is their god of creation and life. The Yoruban story about creation of human beings explains that “Obatala tired of just his cat as a companion, and one day determined that he should make men and women to share the earth with him. Working non-stop, he dug up bits of clay, which he fashioned in to small figures, men and women, shaped like himself. Eventually, Obatala grew exhausted and thirsty from all this work and longed for some palm wine to refresh and rejuvenate him. ( Ford, 2000, p. 151)”. Ijimere Obotunde, a Yoruban playwright presents this scene in his play The imprisonment of Obatala – scene “babalawo”:

You drank the milky wine of the palm, Cool and sizzling it was in the morning, Fermenting in the Calabash, Its sweet foam overflowed, Like the eyes of a woman in love, You refreshed yourself in the morning, But by evening time your hands were unsteady, Your senses dull, your fingertips numbed (Ljimere, cited in Ford, 2000, p. 153-154)

Thus it was a drunk Obtala, who was unable to model the clay properly, which resulted in the creation of disabled persons: his fingers had become unsteady. And some of the figures he next created reflected his impaired condition: they were albinos, cripples, hunchbacks, dwarfs or deaf mutes. But in his drunken state Obatala failed to notice these deformities…When the haze of the palm wine wore off, Obatala looked around and, seeing all the malformed beings, realized what misery his drunkenness had wrought. His heart was filled with compassion and remorse. “Never,” he said to himself, “never again will I drink palm wine. And I shall always be the protector of those who have been created with deformities and imperfections.” (Ford, 2000, p. 151)

Wole Soyinka, nobel laureate and a Yoruba, says that this story brings the god firmly within the human attribute of fallibility. “Since human fallibility is known to entail certain disharmonious consequences for society, it also requires a search for remedial activities, and it is this cycle which ensures the constant regenerative process of the universe. By bringing the gods within this cycle, a continuity of cosmic regulation involving the worlds of the ancestor and the unborn is also guaranteed. (Ford, 2000)

Other Creation Myths

Similar creation myths abound also among the indigenous Amerindian tribes in the Americas, some of which include references to the disabled persons. For example, Yuma Amerindian tribe has a creation myth very similar to the Yoruban myth. For the Yuma, the world was created by a pair of twin brothers, Kokomaht, the All-father, who is good and his blind brother the subterranean Bakothal, who personifies evil. Both brothers take birth out of the depths of a lake. Kokomaht, the “good” elder brother, tricks his younger twin to open his eyes under the water and thus, be born blind, since Kokomaht already knew that his younger brother was going to be evil. The two brothers created the human beings:

Bakothal went on trying to make humans, piecing together seven beings out of earth. All were imperfect.

“What are you making?” Kokomaht asked.

“People,” answered Bakothal.

“Here,” said Kokomaht, “feel these people I’ve made. Yours have no hands or feet. Here; feel; mine have fingers, thumbs, to work, to fashion things, to draw bows, to pick fruit.” (Erodes & Ortiz, 1984, p. 76)

The above examples from different cultures present certain common features related to their views about disability like charity, need for care, imperfection, divine punishment, etc. There is another tradition common to many different cultures which is related to impairments seen as sign of special skills or powers.

Among people as widely dispersed as the African Bushmen, the Samoyed, and the Chinese, a whole series of lunar figures who were missing a hand or foot (like the incomplete moon) were characterized by their power to bring rain and subsequent fertility. (Cahill, 1998, p. 54)

Stereotypes about disabled persons in different cultures

Apart from the negative connotations about disabled persons in the traditional myths and different religious texts, often different cultures also present a stereotypical views about the specific activities, suitable for disabled persons. Many such stereotypes continue to influence the lives of disabled persons even today, thus creating specific expectations or limiting the life-choices available to them.

There are many examples of writers, poets, artists and musicians with long term illnesses or accredited impairments … Developing a more sophisticated approach to the breadth of the disability/art relationship is important when it is remembered that the stereotype of the ‘flawed’ artist remains as strong as ever within western culture. (Barnes & Mercer, 2001, unit 2/p.5)

However, such stereotypes about disabled persons are not restricted only to the Western world, as shown by the following examples from Egypt and Japan:

(In ancient Egypt) the herdsmen belonged to the slave and peasant classes, and were probably, as in many parts of Africa at the present day, mentally or physically deficient. (Budge, 1926, p. 116)

(In Japan) Whatever may underlie these legendary beginnings the traditional professions of musical performance, song and recitative became a recognized specialty of blind people, with the less elevated vocations of massage, acupuncture, fortune-telling and later money-lending. Various schools emerged, teaching the standard professional curricula with local innovations or flavours. (Miles M., 2000, p. 612)

Making icons and creating myths or celebrities out of some persons involves exaggerating certain aspects of lives which are valued in that society, can be considered as another way of creating stereotypes. As far as disabled persons are concerned, the creation of such icons in the mainstream culture, is linked to idealized images, which can allow the mainstream culture to accept oppression as natural or inevitable or to continue creating barriers around disabled persons.

We have an image of Helen Keller that pretends it is the truth. Instead, it presents an icon: a representation of the real person, a symbol, an idol, an object of devotion. An icon is built on socially valued behaviours or status, the sign of ‘success’: career attainment, financial or material wealth, ideals of beauty and so on. In its making, one or more of these factors is perceived as present to an exceptional degree. The icon becomes symbol of perfection and, by definition, excludes the majority. As disabled people, we resent such images of ‘perfection’ because of the expectations they place upon us. We find ourselves repeatedly presented with icon as an enforced role model, an end to strive towards. (Crow L., 2000, p. 857-858)

Social utility of stereotypes and charity model? While discussing the negative imagery about disability in mainstream cultures, it can be important to remember that stereotypes and charity can still have some social utility, especially if support services are lacking. Such a view obviously goes against the human rights perspective, yet for many disabled persons in developing countries, there may be limited alternatives. Even in developed countries, segregation and institutions, can be seen as part of a historical process, with their own relevance at a particular moment of development.

One of the significant contributions that these charity organizations made towards the IL movement was their sponsorship of regularly held summer camps, many in the US established between the first and the second World Wars, which were usually targeted to people with specific disabilities. Some IL leaders recall that these camps were often the first opportunity for many people to shed the role of difference, to develop peer relationships and a sense of community. (ILRU, 1999)

Rise of Disability Culture: The seeds of disability culture and disability arts movement were sown in early nineteen seventies as disabled persons came together to form their own organizations.

..since 1970s, disquiet over the prevalence of disablist imagery in popular culture and the arts among the disabled community has prompted the development of a positive alternative now known as the disability arts movement. (Barnes & Mercer, 2001, unit 2/p.4)

In spite of the prevalent negative imagery linked to disability in the mainstream media, there were some efforts to promote reflections on alternative life-views.

There can be little doubt that the first LINK series played a significant, and sometimes leading, role in promoting the social construction of disability.. (Finkelstein, 1996)

From the beginning, disability culture and disability arts movement have been very closely linked to the movement of disabled people to fight against the physical, social and cultural barriers.

Disability arts is, therefore, about exposing the disabling imagery and processes of society. There is also a role to play alongside conventional political activities. (Barnes & Mercer, 2001, unit 2/p.6)

Disability culture movement is still young and is still striving to define its shared cultural attributes, which render it different and distinctive from mainstream cultural attributes as well as from, attributes of other minority cultures. If culture is seen as a dynamic and syncretic process, which constantly changes through interaction, such areas of debate are inevitable.

Disability culture as creative expression: While some consider any creative expression by disabled persons as part of “disability culture”, others feel that it includes only those creative expressions which deal with disabled life experience and which are linked to fight against the dominating culture.

Disability culture has its greatest influence when people with disabilities write their own books, do their own research, paint, draw, film, and express themselves through the use of language and image. (Coolcult, 1997)

Disability art is not simply about disabled people obtaining access to the mainstream of artistic consumption and production. Nor is it focused on the experience of living with an impairment. Disability art is the development of shared cultural meanings and collective expression of the experience of disability and struggle. It entails using art to expose the discrimination and prejudice disabled people face, and to generate group consciousness and solidarity. (Barnes & Mercer, 2001, unit 2/p.13)

Relationships between dominating mainstream culture and the disability culture: What importance should be given to recognition by the mainstream culture, of the “worthiness” of creative expression of disabled persons? Should the actors of disability culture primarily keep the products of their creative expression for their own consumption or they need to promote it in the mainstream cultural media?

In the past couple of weeks a lot of wonderful things have happened to me in the poetry world. A poem of mine called “Snapshot” has been published in a wonderful poetry journal called LUMMOX; I’ve had a chance to read my poetry with other wonderful poets at our own local Border Book Festival and one of my poems won a 2nd place award at a poetry contest. (Brown, 2001)

It may be argued that both the goals are equally necessary. Disabled persons need to share their creative expressions among themselves as it serves for forging stronger disability culture identity. At the same time, if the aim of disability culture is to fight against the values of dominating mainstream culture, it has to access the tools and expressions of mainstream media.

Sharing of common values in disability culture: As the experiences of oppression are common in different cultures, an overarching cultural identity of all disabled persons in the world can be considered. This universal disability culture identity can express itself in different disability subcultures based on ethnicity, religion, sexual preferences, etc.

On the other hand, people with disabilities are a diverse group, claiming multiple and simultaneous identities whose borders shift and essential qualities seem to be in flux – even among disability scholars such as myself – creating the possibility for a syncretic view of disability culture. (Peters S., 2000, p. 589)

There are debates about the criteria for deciding if disabled persons can claim a separate cultural identity. “So the question becomes, is there a disability culture? Or are disabled people simply individuals – or at best a socio/political minority group – striving to fit in to the dominant culture (whatever that is)?” (Peters S., 2000, p. 584)

Bragg contended that in order for disabled people to claim a disability culture and therefore, a cultural identity, several requirements must be satisfied: a common language; a historical lineage that can be traced textually, evidence of cohesive social community, political solidarity, acculturation within the family at an early age (and/or in segregated residential schools and clubs); generational or genetic links; pride and identity in segregation from Others. …. Bragg claimed that none of these requirements for a disability culture exist – with the exception of Deaf Culture. (Peters S., 2000, p. 584)

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