Irrational Perspectives and Untenable Positions: Sociology, Madness and Disability

Subcultures, Bodies and Spaces: Essays on Alternativity and Marginalization

ISBN: 978-1-78756-512-8, eISBN: 978-1-78756-511-1

Publication date: 15 October 2018


In this chapter, the author critically examines the relationship between sociology and the identities/experiences of disability and ‘mental illness’ (referred to throughout as distress). The author argues that despite sociology having an ethos of social justice and frequently producing critical accounts of inequalities – such as anti-racism and gender equality – it nonetheless uncritically reiterates the marginalisation of disability and distress. As such, sociology not only reflects the increasing ‘medicalisation of everyday life’ and shores up the essentialist discourses of genetics and neuroscience, but also consigns research and knowledge production about disability and distress to the medical sciences. The author challenges these sociological conventions and highlights the ways in which both disability and distress are socially structured, embodied experiences. The author argues that a sociological account of distress and disability are important not only in and of themselves, but also because they highlight the ways and means to challenge essentialism, inequality and the ever-narrowing definition of what is considered a normal or acceptable part of human experience. Furthermore, vibrant streams of user-led research, activism and practice-interventions – resulting in widespread social, legal and identity transformations – have emerged from the experiences of disability and distress. These user-led perspectives highlight the importance and potential of knowledge produced from the margins, not only for those experiencing disability and/or distress but also for the ways in which we perceive, theorise and research the social world more broadly.



Inckle, K. (2018), "Irrational Perspectives and Untenable Positions: Sociology, Madness and Disability", Holland, S. and Spracklen, K. (Ed.) Subcultures, Bodies and Spaces: Essays on Alternativity and Marginalization (Emerald Studies in Alternativity and Marginalization), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 169-188.

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Copyright © 2018, Samantha Holland and Karl Spracklen

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