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Disability, relationship, and the negotiation of loss
  1. Brian Watermeyer1,2,
  2. Victor Mckinney1
  1. 1Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  2. 2Department IDEA Resarch Unit (including Disability in Education in Africa), The University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Dr Brian Watermeyer, Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; brian.watermeyer{at}uct.ac.za

Abstract

Oppressive stereotypes of invalidity and tragedy have positioned loss and grieving as contested issues in the field of disability studies. Ascriptions of ‘denial’ are rejected by many disabled people, as a reductive medicalisation of their lived reality. For these and other reasons, this paper asserts that disabled people are afforded limited or awkward social spaces for grief, be it to do with social positioning, embodiment, or any other aspect of human experience. This is significant because grieving may have an important relationship with political mobilisation, both personal and collective. The paper presents autoethnographic material from the life of the second author, who has lived with quadriplegia for more than three decades. Using ideas from critical psychoanalysis it traces how political, relational and intrapsychic mechanisms constrain and sanction his expression of feelings of loss, contributing to a relational predicament of melancholic suspension, analogous to that attributed to subordinated racial groups. Here, one is forced to strive for assimilation into an unattainable, ideal social role, while simultaneously being alienated from one’s inner experience, with implications for both creativity and personal power. The paper concludes that, paradoxically, stereotypes are countered not by dissociation from grief, but rather the claiming of it.

  • disability
  • psychology

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Data availability statement

Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study. No data are available.

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Footnotes

  • Contributors BW provided theory, article research and revision. VM provided personal narrative, article research and revision.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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