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Mark Rapley’s The Social Construction of Intellectual Disability

August 30, 2014

“We see then that professionalised understandings of people with intellectual disabilities not only collapse ‘people’ and ‘intellectual disabilities’ in such a fashion as to reduce personhood, simply, to ‘intellectual disability,’ but with ‘a zest for pathology and a zealous divineness,’ also work to discredit, invalidate and de-legitimise any form of understanding other than those prosecuted within its own terms: that is to say ‘commonplace intelligiblities are altogether surprssesd’ (Gergen, 1998: np).”  Mark Rapley


Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 11.46.16 PMMark Rapley’s book, The Social Construction of Intellectual Disability, might say new things to some people and say some things differently to others because it comes out of a different discourse than our own, but I think it is well worth reading, and arguing with, and feeling supported by in that “I knew something was up!” kind of way.  In the first part of the book Rapley and his team look at recorded conversations of people with intellectual disabilities and their professional supports and examine the ways in which during those conversations people are categorized and often dismissed.  They then take their work into supported living homes and record staff as they assist people; one of the things that they watch is how staff assist people to be more independent but in the process create a kind of dialogue that undermines confidence.   

This is not a new book, having come out in 2004, but it certainly is interesting.  It was transformational for me in my thinking and led me down some new avenues.  It is available, more affordable as a second hand copy and is also a Kindle book (though not searchable).   

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