Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology

pp 360-373

Disability/Difference

  • Russell P. Shuttleworth

Introduction

This entry has three primary aims: (1) to provide a brief overview of the kinds of bodily and behavioral differences perceived as anomalous in a range of societies and the various social responses to these differences; (2) to review and critique research and theory in the anthropology of impairment-disability; and (3) to suggest several conceptual advancements that would move this area of study forward.

Cross-Cultural Review of Responses to Bodily and Behavioral Differences

As a broad inclusive category, and from a strict constructionist perspective, disability exists only in locally specific relation to Western European notions of medicalization, employment, and welfare (Groce, 1999; Whyte & Ingstad, 1995). Yet, some range of physical and behavioral differences are recognized in all societies and there are often social consequences that follow from this recognition. While it is of paramount im ...

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