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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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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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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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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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Bortolotti, Lisa, , John Harris. Disability, Enhancement, and the Harm-Benefit Continuum
2006, In John R. Spencer & Antje Du Bois-Pedain (eds.), Freedom and Responsibility in Reproductive Choice. Hart Publishers.
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Abstract: Suppose that you are soon to be a parent and you learn that there are some simple measures that you can take to make sure that your child will be healthy. In particular, suppose that by following the doctor’s advice, you can prevent your child from having a disability, you can make your child immune from a number of dangerous diseases and you can even enhance its future intelligence. All that is required for this to happen is that you (or your partner) comply with lifestyle and dietary requirements. Do you and your partner have any moral reasons (or moral obligations) to follow the doctor’s advice? Would it make a difference if, instead of following some simple dietary requirements, you consented to genetic engineering to make sure that your child was free from disabilities, healthy and with above average intelligence? In this paper we develop a framework for dealing with these questions and we suggest some directions the answers might take.

Comment: This paper is an especially good inclusion in any bioethics course that has units on both disability and enhancement, covering issues at the intersection of these topics – indeed, it could be used quite effectively as a “transition paper”, bridging a unit on the former topic with a unit on the latter. The piece pairs particularly well with Michael Sandel’s, “The Case Against Perfection”, and should be suitably accessible to all students, requiring very little philosophical background.

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Brand, Peg Zeglin, , . Beauty as Pride: A Function of Agency’
2011, APA Newsletter 10(2): 5-9.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by:

Abstract: This is basically a paper about artistic evaluation and how multiple interpretations can give rise to inconsistent and conflicting meanings. Images like Joel-Peter Witkin’s First Casting for Milo (2004) challenge the viewer to look closely, understand the formal properties at work, and then extract a meaning that ultimately asks, Is the model exploited or empowered? Is Karen Duffy, pictured here, vulnerable and “enfreaked” or is she potentially subversive, transgressive, and perhaps self-empowered? I will offer an argument in agreement with artist/author/ performer Ann Millett-Gallant that favors the latter interpretation, but will augment and complicate the issue by also introducing a pointed question or two taken from a recent analysis by Cynthia Freeland on objectification. I judge the works by photographer Joel-Peter Witkin to be representations of disabled persons who are empowered through agency and pride, but I also worry about the risk of multiple, conflicting interpretations on the part of viewers who do not, or cannot, entertain such enlightened readings. Like second wave feminist views about pornography that depicted women in demeaning ways, or feminist critiques of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party , Witkin’s photos can be judged as potentially offensive. But they are also objects of beauty – both in terms of aesthetic properties (they are magnificent studies in black and white, shadows, the human body, with many classical references) and because of the feeling of beauty and pride felt by the posers, who become performers of their own beauty and pride. I argue that beauty trumps offensiveness. Pride wins. But I’m not sure that everyone will agree.

Comment: Questions the ideal standard of beauty portrayed throughout the history of art, particularly in form of the female nude, and examines works of art that defiantly challenge that ideal. Argues that in certain representations of disabled persons the model is empowered and not exploited and that beauty trumps offensiveness. Pride wins.

Artworks to use with this text:

Joel-Peter Witkin, First Casting for Milo (2004)

Portrait of Irish artist Karen Duffy engaged in a silent performance of ‘disarming’ Venus. In her own words, she is aiming to ‘liberate herself from histories of oppressive representations of women and disabled women in particular.’

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Chambers, Emma, , . Face to Face: Representing Facial Disfigurement
2010, in: Richard Sandell, Jocelyn Dodd, & Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, London: Routledge, pp. 179-193.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by:

Summary: In-depth analysis of how the Saving Faces exhibition challenges stereotypes of disabled people as dependent invalids or exotic specimens. Discusses the artist’s rejection of experimentation in favour of a painting style that is as ‘straight’ as possible (and so makes for an interesting contrast with the use of cubist painting in Anita Silver’s essays). Also draws attention to the interaction between artist and sitter and to the process of portraiture.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture, as well as depiction and representation in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Mark Gilbert, Saving Faces (2000)

Gilbert was artist-in-residence at the oral and maxillofacial surgery department of a London hospital. His brief was to illustrate what is, and also isn’t, possible with modern facial surgery; and to capture the emotional journey undertaken by patients in ways that standard clinical photography cannot.

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Davis, Alison, , . Right to life of handicapped
1983, Journal of Medical Ethics 9 (3):181-181.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: This notion of non-personhood denies the right of handicapped people to be recognised as equal human beings in a caring society, and it makes a mockery of the goodwill which seemingly abounded in the International Year of Disabled People. Legislation of the type proposed could well also lead to the de facto decriminalisation of the act of killing a handicapped person of any age, just as it did in Hitler’sGermany.And if it does, woe betide any handicapped people who are too ill to defend their right to life by protesting that they are in fact happy. And woe betide us all, when we get too old to be considered ‘useful’ and all the friends who could have spoken in our defence have already been oh so lovingly ‘allowed to die’.

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Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie, , . Picturing People with Disabilities: classical portraiture as reconstructive narrative
2010, in: Richard Sandell, Jocelyn Dodd, & Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, London: Routledge, pp. 179-193.
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Summary: Provides a close reading of formal portraits of people with disabilities. Focuses on the fundamental elements of traditional portraiture: frame, pose, costume, likeness. Central argument: a conservative representational genre can act in the service of a progressive politics. Through framing, pose, costume, and likeness portraits accord dignity, authority, and symbolic capital to disabled subjects.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture and depiction, as well as empowerment and art’s role in power relations in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Doug Auld, Shayla (2005) Portrait of a black woman with significant burn scars

Compared and contrasted with Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington (1810).

Sasha Newley, Christopher Reeve (2004)

Juxtaposed with earlier iconic portraits of the ‘man of steel’.

Marc Quinn, Alison Lapper Pregnant (2006)

Powerfully asserting that a woman with significant disabilities who is evidently sexual, about to become a mother, is worthy of being seen on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

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Imafidon, Elvis, , . Africa and the Unfolding of Difference: An Introduction
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 1-11
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: This chapter provides introductory comments or preliminary remarks to the Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. It begins by defending the claim that difference stands under as the foundation of the unfolding of African philosophy as an academic discipline and the unfolding of many lived experiences in African spaces both in Africa and in the Diaspora. Hence, African philosophy of difference is a critical reflection on the place of difference in the African experience. The chapters in this handbook thus explore various and specific aspects of such lived experiences and the roles difference or alterity play in their unfolding. The handbook is thus divided into five sections with each section exploring key aspects of the importance of difference in the understanding of the African experience. The first section provides conceptualizations of difference in African thought. The second section explores various aspects and provides critical comments on the question of racism, particularly the institutionalized racial discrimination by whites against blacks due to racial differences. The third section examines some key issues emerging from the role difference plays in the unfolding of African experiences such as epistemological issues, the language issue, the role of art in the institutionalization of difference, and moral issues. The fourth section explores the important roles that difference plays in questions of disability, gender, and the non-human other. The last section examines how difference plays key roles in the unfolding of lived experiences in specific African places such as the experience of xenophobia in South Africa, the Skolombos in Calabar, Nigeria, and the land distribution question in Zimbabwe. The chapter concludes that this handbook is an important contribution to alterity discourse in African philosophy not because it exhausts the issues involved, but because it provided a robust discussion that would provoke further reflections and discussions.

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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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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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