Feminist Review

, Volume 115, Issue 1, pp 46–60

feminist disability studies as methodology: life-writing and the abled/disabled binary



What does feminist disability studies contribute to feminist methods? Feminist disability scholars interweave life-writing about their experiences of disability or caring for a disabled person to challenge ableist stereotypes. As such, they foreground their own vulnerability to build disability identity and community. This style of life-writing, while essential, tends to calcify the dichotomy between the disabled and abled—a binary that the field of feminist disability studies aims to destabilise. Building on new work in feminist disability studies, I show how some scholars use life-writing to cultivate an estranging sensitivity. This new sensitivity builds on prior feminist disability studies scholarship to estrange us from 1) the idea that disability is a cohesive identity and community, 2) that disability is always a socially desirable position, and 3) that allegiance to disability rights insulates us from ableist anxiety. By embracing the tension between solidifying and destabilising the meaning of disability, feminist disability scholars can leverage life-writing as a tool of resistance and thereby lessen the threat of conformity that life narratives tend to produce.


feminist disability studies methodology autoethnography life-writing 

Copyright information

© The Feminist Review Collective 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Women’s and Gender StudiesVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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