chapter  1
24 Pages

New Geographies of Illness, Impairment and Disability

The three extracts above are from interviews quoted in three recent human geographical studies: the first being orientated around people with mental health problems, the second around women with multiple sclerosis and the third around people with visual impairments. These three quotations, and the studies from which they are drawn, are linked in various and quite problematic ways. At first glance these studies are dealing with very different aspects of the mind and body (in biomedical terminology: mental illness, multiple sclerosis and blindness), and very different sorts of social and spatial concerns. Attention to different embodied experiences such as these might have traditionally been regarded as either irrelevant to human geographical enquiry or as quite separate concerns, relegated to the separate sub-disciplinary fields of the ‘geography of mental health’, ‘medical geography’ and a ‘geography of disability’. A key purpose of

this collection is precisely to explore the interconnections between the people quoted above (amongst others), and to provide the starting point for considering together the various (and so far quite discrete) strands of human geographical enquiry which have encountered the often limited, painful, confused, restricted and segregated mind and body. The claim made in this introduction is that there are many points of connection between very different people rooted in their shared experiences of biomedical inscription, pain, social isolation and political and economic marginalisation. Moreover, we also claim that such connections exist with respect to positive experiences of community, political action and embodied resistance to stereotypical labels of illness, impairment and disability.