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A Messy Trajectory: From Medical Sociology to Crip Theory

Sociology Looking at Disability: What Did We Know and When Did We Know it

ISBN: 978-1-78635-478-5, eISBN: 978-1-78635-477-8

Publication date: 17 December 2016



The purpose of this paper is to draw attention to the work of sociologists who laid the foundation for queer and crip approaches to disability and to address how queer and crip theory has and can help to re-conceptualize our understandings of health, illness, disability, and sexuality.


This paper is an examination of historical moments and prominent literature within medical sociology and sociology of disability. Sociological and popular understandings of disability and sexuality have often mirrored each other historically. Although this literature review focuses primarily on medical sociology and disability studies literature, some works of scholars specializing in gender studies, sexuality, literature, history, and queer studies are also included


In this paper, I argue that the medicalization and pathologization of human differences specifically as it pertains to sexuality and disability within the medical sociological literature have led to constructionist, social model, and feminist critiques. It is these critiques that then laid the foundation for the development of queer and crip theoretical approaches to both disability and sexuality.


Crip and queer approaches to disability provide a clear call for future sociological research. Few social science scholars have applied queer and crip approaches in empirical studies on disability. The majority of work in this area is located in the humanities and concerned with literary criticism. A broader array of empirical work on the intersection of sexuality and disability from queer/crip perspectives is needed both to refine these postmodern theoretical models and to examine their implications for the complex lived experience that lies at the intersection of sexuality and disability. In queering disability and cripping sexuality and gender, we may be able not only to more fully conceptualize disability, sexuality, and gender as individual social categories, but also to more fully understand the complex intersection of these social locations.



Egner, J. (2016), "A Messy Trajectory: From Medical Sociology to Crip Theory", Sociology Looking at Disability: What Did We Know and When Did We Know it (Research in Social Science and Disability, Vol. 9), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 159-192.



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