Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology

pp 493-505

Mental Retardation

  • F. John Meaney


Perhaps no phrase in any language produces in sum more anxiety, controversy, fear, hopelessness, and stigma, at least in Western societies, as “mental retardation” or a similar phrase for intellectual disability. We live in a world that cultivates and sells perfection, and while this might be fine for some outcomes of concern, it fosters and reinforces the attitudes of people in many cultures and societies that are less than accepting of individuals with physical and mental disabilities. Although in general most societies have progressed with respect to the concerns of individuals with disabilities, advances in our knowledge and legislated changes have still not overcome the prevailing sense that differences are not fully acceptable among all in society. Deficits in intellectual functioning place individuals who so vary among the groups in our societies that are marked by such descriptors as race, cultural background, language, socioeconomic status, sexual preferenc ...

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