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Abudu, Kenneth U. , Imafidon, Elvis, . Epistemic Injustice, Disability, and Queerness in African Cultures
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 393-409
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by:

Abstract: Perception, representations, and knowledge claims about disability and queerness vary across societies and cultures. In African cultures negative knowledge claims and representations of disability and queerness create a perception of the disabled and queer that are not only detrimental to such persons in African societies but arguably undermine the work of understanding difference and tolerance in general. These negative claims raise some epistemological questions, such as: how do Africans come to know about disability and how are such knowledge claims validated within African communities? Against this backdrop, this chapter critically examines the epistemology of disability and queerness in African traditions. It shows that the epistemic authoritarianism found in African epistemology leads to an epistemic injustice that contributes immensely to the discrimination against disabled and queer beings as reflected in many cultural practices across the continent of Africa. The chapter argues that knowledge claims about disability and queerness in Africa emerge mainly from neglect, superstition, myth, and, above all, ignorance.

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Barnes, Elizabeth, , . Disability, Minority, and Difference
2009, Journal of Applied Philosophy 26(4): 337-355.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: In this paper I develop a characterization of disability according to which disability is in no way a sub?optimal feature. I argue, however, that this conception of disability is compatible with the idea that having a disability is, at least in a restricted sense, a harm. I then go on to argue that construing disability in this way avoids many of the common objections leveled at accounts which claim that disability is not a negative feature.

Comment: Really useful in an applied ethics course or, for instance, in a metaphysics course when teaching about social ontology and social constructivism. This would be a great primary or secondary reading for the latter. If being used as a primary reading, students could simply be asked as seminar preparation to summarise Barnes’ argument in their own words. I think it’s really important to get a good handle on, and having this question as preparation will get students thinking about it in depth beforehand. As this is quite a substantial task, it would be fine for this to be the only set question. I really think everyone should read this paper.

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Barnes, Elizabeth, , . Valuing Disability, Causing Disability
2014, Ethics, 125 (1): 88-113.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord, Contributed by:

Abstract: Disability rights activists often claim that disability is not – by itself – something that makes disabled people worse off. A popular objection to such a view of disability is this: were it correct, it would make it permissible to cause disability and impermissible to cause nondisability (or impermissible to ‘cure’ disability, to use the value-laden term). The aim of this article is to show that these twin objections don’t succeed.

Comment: This text intervenes in the debate over whether disability, itself, makes someone worse off (the mere-disability/bad-disability debate). It could serve as a clear introduction to the sorts of arguments that support the view that disability is a bad-making feature of someone’s life, and contains easily understood counter-examples to that view. It has a place in a course covering disability, impairment, bioethics, autonomy, and social minorities.

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Imafidon, Elvis, , . Intrinsic Versus Earned Worth in African Conception of Personhood
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 239-254
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: Every human being ought to have some form of intrinsic value that she has in herself as well as earned or extrinsic value that she earns for herself. Although not free from contention, the possibility of a human being having certain intrinsic values is essential for the very idea of personhood. It is the reason why it would be wrong not to take a baby as a person simply because she is at that moment unable to earn some value for herself. In this chapter, I interrogate how the idea of personhood dominant in African cultures separates one category of persons from another category. In the first category of human beings, persons are intrinsically valued as persons due to their possession of certain ontological and normative qualities. In the second category, a few other persons are not intrinsically valued as persons due to their lack of certain required ontological and normative qualities needed to belong to the first category of human beings. But in this second category, such persons have the opportunity to earn the value of personhood given to those in the first category. Put differently, the other has the potential of becoming the one if he works tirelessly toward it through individual and group efforts. I explore three specific examples of the second category of persons who have worked to earn some form of worth that the African society in which they live presents as extrinsic to them: persons with albinism, black people, and black women. In this case, a consistent individual lifestyle of rising above expectations and group rights advocacy are essential. I conclude that the African conception of personhood is flawed in its failure to recognize the intrinsic worth and value of all human beings regardless of their ontological and normative status and because it also fails in appreciating the importance of difference in the unfolding of reality.

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Kittay, Eva Feder, , . Forever Small: The Strange Case of Ashley X
2011, Hypatia, 26 (3): 610-631.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord, Contributed by:

Abstract: I explore the ethics of altering the body of a child with severe cognitive disabilities in such a way that keeps the child ‘forever small.’ The parents of Ashley, a girl of six with severe cognitive and developmental disabilities, in collaboration with her physicians and the Hospital Ethics Committee, chose to administer growth hormones that would inhibit her growth. They also decided to remove her uterus and breast buds, assuring that she would not go through the discomfort of menstruation and would not grow breasts. In this way she would stay ‘forever small’ and be able to be carried and handled by family members. They claimed that doing this would ensure that she would be able to be part of the family and of family activities and to have familial care. But the procedure has raised thorny ethical questions. I wish to explore these questions philosophically by bringing to bear my own experiences as a mother of a grown daughter with severe cognitive impairments.

Comment: This reading both introduces the controversial case of Ashley X and also provides a set of ethical considerations concerning altering the bodies of persons with severe cognitive disabilities. It would serve as an excellent introduction to a unit on disability, a unit on the ethics of care, or concerning the limits of parental paternalism.

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Kittay, Eva Feder, , . When Caring Is Just and Justice is Caring: Justice and Mental Retardation
2001, Public Culture 13(3): 557-580
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Added by: Jamie Robertson, Contributed by:

Summary: In this paper, Kittay advances a conception of justice that ‘begins with an acknowledgement of dependency and seeks to organise society so that our well-being is not inversely related to our need for care or to care’ (576). Her motivation for advancing this view is that ideals of citizenship in liberal society, including independence and productivity, perpetuate the victimisation, social exclusion, or stigmatisation of people with mental retardation and their carers. This is because liberal definitions of personhood do not provide resources for responding in a morally adequate way to the mutual dependence of people with mental retardation and their carers/advocates. People with mental retardation are inescapably dependent because of their central need for attentive care. And, carers’ work is so deeply other-directed that they also do not fit the liberal model of the rationally self-interested actor. Thus, both carers and their charges are vulnerable and need to be advocated for so that they can be seen as having important entitlements to public resources and claims to justice. To this end, Kittay proposes a conception of personhood that is based on relationships. Although those with mental retardation are inherently dependent, they still count as persons because they are able to participate in relationships. This makes them entitled to the satisfactions that make life worth living. To achieve the twin goal of achieving justice for familial or paid carers, Kittay advances a new principle of justice, doulia, which calls for larger society to support those who care for the inexorably dependent. Kittay takes her relational conception of personhood and her principle of doulia to ensure that appropriate forms of social organization exist to support all those who become dependent. She claims her view is needed because principles of charity and beneficence are not adequate since they are consistent with the continued stigmatization of mental retardation and care work, and ground only low-priority social obligations.

Comment: This paper, with it’s helpful discussions of the elements of the liberal tradition with which Kittay specifically takes issue and the inadequacies of the Americans with Disabilities Act, would be an appropriate reading for courses about the philosophy of disability or about liberal political theory.

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Kuhse, Hoyt, , Singer, Peter. Should the Baby Live? The Problem of Handicapped Infants
1985, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Publisher’s Note: Few subjects have generated so many newspaper headlines and such heated controversy as the treatment, or non-treatment, of handicapped newborns. In 1982, the case of Baby Doe, a child born with Down’s syndrome, stirred up a national debate in the United States, while in Britain a year earlier, Dr. Leonard Arthur stood trial for his decision to allow a baby with Down’s syndrome to die. Government intervention and these recent legal battles accentuate the need for a reassessment of the complex issues involved. This volume–by two authorities on medical ethics–presents a philosophical analysis of the subject based on particular case studies. Addressing the doctrine of the absolute sanctity of life, Singer and Kuhse examine some actual cases where decisions have been reached; consider the criteria for making these decisions; investigate the differences between killing and letting die; compare Western attitudes and practices with those of other cultures; and conclude by proposing a decision-making framework that offers a rational alternative to the polemics and confusion generated by this highly controversial topic.

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Nussbaum, Martha, , . Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership
2006, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Publisher: Theories of social justice are necessarily abstract, reaching beyond the particular and the immediate to the general and the timeless. Yet such theories, addressing the world and its problems, must respond to the real and changing dilemmas of the day. A brilliant work of practical philosophy, Frontiers of Justice is dedicated to this proposition. Taking up three urgent problems of social justice neglected by current theories and thus harder to tackle in practical terms and everyday life, Martha Nussbaum seeks a theory of social justice that can guide us to a richer, more responsive approach to social cooperation. The idea of the social contract–especially as developed in the work of John Rawls–is one of the most powerful approaches to social justice in the Western tradition. But as Nussbaum demonstrates, even Rawls’s theory, suggesting a contract for mutual advantage among approximate equals, cannot address questions of social justice posed by unequal parties. How, for instance, can we extend the equal rights of citizenship–education, health care, political rights and liberties–to those with physical and mental disabilities? How can we extend justice and dignified life conditions to all citizens of the world? And how, finally, can we bring our treatment of nonhuman animals into our notions of social justice? Exploring the limitations of the social contract in these three areas, Nussbaum devises an alternative theory based on the idea of capabilities. She helps us to think more clearly about the purposes of political cooperation and the nature of political principles–and to look to a future of greater justice for all.

Comment: This excellent book is valuable in teaching for two main reasons: (1) it extends and expands on the application of the capability approach to non-human animals, the disabled and the global poor; and (2) it offers a valuable critique of Rawls’ theory of justice.

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Silvers, Anita, , . From the Crooked Timber of Humanity, Beautiful Things Can Be Made
2000, in: Brand, Peg Zeglin (ed.), Beauty Matters, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 197-221.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by:

Summary: Starting from our appreciation of cubist portraits, asks why it to commonplace for us to contemplate distorted depictions of faces with eagerness and enjoyment but to be repelled by real people whose physiognomies resemble the depicted ones. Argues that the aesthetic process that permits our attraction to portrayed human anomalies can be expanded so as to offset the devalued social positioning of real people whose physiognomic features are anomalous. Presenting an anomaly as originality rather than deviance is crucial.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture and depiction, beauty, as well as the links between aesthetics and ethics.

Artworks to use with this text:

Pablo Picasso, Maya with a Doll (1938)

Cubist portrait of a child. Silvers interestingly compares this to a photo of a child with osteogenesis imperfecta.

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Silvers, Anita, , . From the Crooked Timber of Humanity, Beautiful Things Should Be Made!
2011, APA Newsletter, 10(2): 1-5.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Summary: Follow-up essay on her ‘From the Crooked Timber of Humanity, Beautiful Things Can Be Made’ (note the one-word difference in the title). Adds the idea that medical professionals have at least a mild duty to cultivate aesthetic judgment of individuals with biological differences. Also makes the case that beauty is not the same thing as attractiveness or normalcy.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture and depiction, beauty, as well as the links between aesthetics and ethics.

Artworks to use with this text:

Riva Lehrer, Susan Nussbaum (1998)

This portrait of disability activist Nussbaum invokes Picasso’s famous portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906). It is discussed in Garland-Thomson.

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Stark, Cynthia A., , . How to Include the Severly Disabled in a Contractarian Theory of Justice
2007, Journal of Political Philosophy 15 (2): 127-145.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Content: Modifies and then defends a Rawlsian theory of justice from the charge that it cannot adequately account for the claims of severely disabled individuals who cannot participate fully in schemes of cooperation.

Comment: Best suited as specialised or further reading on disability and Rawlsian theories of justice.
[This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Tremain, Shelley, , . Reproductive freedom, self-regulation, and the government of impairment in utero
2006, Hypatia 21(1): 35-53.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: This article critically examines the constitution of impairment in prenatal testing and screening practices and various discourses that surround these technologies. While technologies to test and screen (for impairment) prenatally are claimed to enhance women’s capacity to be self-determining, make informed reproductive choices, and, in effect, wrest control of their bodies from a patriarchal medical establishment, I contend that this emerging relation between pregnant women and reproductive technologies is a new strategy of a form of power that began to emerge in the late eighteenth century. Indeed, my argument is that the constitution of prenatal impairment, by and through these practices and procedures, is a widening form of modern government that increasingly limits the field of possible conduct in response to pregnancy. Hence, the government of impairment in utero is inextricably intertwined with the government of the maternal body.

Comment: Most useful in teaching on ethical issues at the beginning of life. It can be also used in teaching on the ethics of autonomy, freedom of choice, and feminism in general.

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