Social encounters, cultural representation and critical avoidance
Cultural disability studies is an explicitly interdisciplinary ﬁeld, synthesizing, as it often does, scholarship in both disability and various forms of cultural production. Probing the very point of that interdisciplinarity, this chapter considers two interrelated questions. Does the study of culture deepen our understanding of disability? Does the study of disability enrich our understanding of culture? Speciﬁcally, the friction and avoidance that may result from encounters between those of us who have impairments and those of us who do not are analysed and theorized with reference to the inﬂuence of cultural representation. This discussion helps to explain why, increasingly, the established discipline of disability studies pertains to cultural factors. But also illustrated is the fact that a critical appreciation of disability can greatly inform the study of cultural representations, be they literary, ﬁlmic, artistic, musical, or whatever. The two interrelated questions raise a challenging issue on which I reﬂect here and elsewhere, for although the ﬁeld of cultural disability studies is undoubtedly growing, it remains generally ignored within the humanities. In eﬀect, the avoidance that results from some encounters between those of us who have impairments and those of us who do not have impairments is duplicated in the academy on a curricular level. It is to this scenario that I attach the label critical avoidance.