Desiring and critiquing humanity/ability/personhood: disrupting the ability/disability binary

Auteurs en uitgever


Elisabeth De Schauwer, Silke Daelman, Hanne Vandenbussche, Sofie Sergeant, Inge Van de Putte & Bronwyn Davies



Soort publicatie


Gepubliceerd in

Disability & Society, Published online: 16 March 2020




The authors take up the challenge of Goodley and Runswick-Cole’s call to dismantle the ability/disability binary such that those now called ‘disabled’ can unproblematically join the ranks of those who will be counted as human. Using the methodology of collective biography, the six authors explore their own memories of becoming abled, and find in those memories a similar pattern of desire for, and critique of, humanness that Goodley and Runswick-Cole found in the participants in their own study, participants who were categorised as intellectually disabled. We turn to post philosophies to further develop the vocabularies through which the meaning of human can be expanded to include those who are currently viewed as less-than-human or other-to-human in their difference from the norm.

Points of interest

  • In this article the authors use the research method of ‘collective biography’ to explore their first memories of how they became able, and were recognized as normal and human.
  • We work with childhood photos to help open up our memories.
  • We challenge the taken-for-granted division between the categories normal/abnormal, able/disabled.
  • We argue that everybody is different, and that we all change and become able in different ways.
  • We are all vulnerable and we all desire to belong in the same world, irrespective of the categories we are placed in.


Sofie Sergeant made an easy-read introduction to the article in English and Dutch (see Downloads)



Article in Disability & Society at Taylor&Francis Online (login and/or payment required)

Article on ResearchGate (login required, after that you can request the full-text)

More information: email to Sofie Sergeant: