Women with Disabilities: Essays in Psychology, Culture, and Politics

By Michelle Fine; Adrienne Asch | Go to book overview

1. On Embodiment: A Case Study of Congenital Limb Deficiency in American Culture

GELYA FRANK

The use of the body for most people has a culturally prescribed, developmental, and finally habitual character. The individual with physical disabilities, however, must learn to integrate identity and function anew -- to accept a variant body image and to learn to use the body automatically and unself-consciously in culturally acceptable ways. The purpose of this paper is to describe and interpret the manner in which Diane DeVries, an American woman, now in her thirties and born with quadrilateral limb deficiencies, views her body and uses it to accomplish everyday activities. The rubric will be "embodiment," a concept taken from the phenomenological movement in philosophy ( Spiegeiberg 1976). A goal of phenomenological investigations has been to identify and describe the essential forms of human experience, beginning with the body as a locus for sensation, perception, and interaction ( Merleau-Ponty 1962; Sartre 1957; Schilder 1950). In a recent article I drew on the life history of Diane DeVries to develop a theory of the phenomenon of empathy ( Frank 1985). But here my purpose is applied, hence my reference to the phenomenon of embodiment as a "rubric" to frame a discourse on the experience of disability in American culture.

Experiences of the world presuppose an embodied consciousness habituated to the biological endowments of the species; these in turn constitute the way that the environment is perceived and experienced ( Von Uexküll 1957). It is distinctive of human beings that they inhabit cultural worlds, each a selection and elaboration of elements with the

A version of this chapter appeared originally in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 10 ( 1986):189-219. Copyright © 1986 by D. Reidel Publishing Company. Reprinted by permission.

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Women with Disabilities: Essays in Psychology, Culture, and Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction: Beyond Pedestals 1
  • Notes 31
  • References 32
  • I: Bodies and Images 39
  • Notes 40
  • 1. on Embodiment: A Case Study of Congenital LImb Deficiency in American Culture 41
  • Notes 68
  • References 70
  • 2.Sex Roles and Culture: Social and Personal Reactions to Breast Cancer 72
  • Notes 85
  • 3. in Search of A Heroine: Images of Women with Disabilities in Fiction and Drama 90
  • References 110
  • Ii: Disabled Women in Relationships 111
  • Notes 112
  • 4. the Construction of Gender and Disability in Early Attachment 115
  • References 136
  • 5. Daughters with Disabilities: Defective Women Or Minority Women? 139
  • References 170
  • 6. Friendship and Fairness: How Disability Affects Friendship Between Women 172
  • Notes 192
  • References 192
  • 7. Disability and Ethnicity in Conflict: A Study in Transformation 195
  • Notes 213
  • 8. Never-Married Old Women and Disability: A Majority Experience 215
  • Note 224
  • References 224
  • Iii:Policy and Politics 227
  • 9. Women, Work, and Disability: Opportunities and Challenges 229
  • References 243
  • 10. Disabled Women and Public Policies for Income Support 245
  • References 267
  • 11. Autonomy as A Different Voice: Women, Disabilities, and Decisions 269
  • Notes 292
  • 12. Shared Dreams: A Left Perspective on Disability Rights and Reproductive Rights 297
  • Notes 305
  • 13. Smashing ICons: Disabled Women and the Disability and Women's Movements 306
  • Notes 329
  • References 331
  • Epilogue: Research and Politics to Come 333
  • Notes 336
  • About the Contributors and Index 337
  • About the Contributors 339
  • Index 343
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