Against a politics of victimisation: disability culture and self-advocates with learning difficulties
This chapter examines culture in the lives of people with the label of ‘learning difficulties’. Drawing and building upon a recent study, it is suggested that the self-advocacy of people with ‘learning difficulties’ may exist prior to and as the consequence of joining a self-advocacy culture. Significantly, self-advocacy constitutes an alternative cultural form – counter to the hegemonic disabling culture – and has the potential to embrace and inform a politics and culture of resilience. In contrast to structuralist accounts of culture that pinpoint the victims of disabling culture, this chapter suggests that people with ‘learning difficulties’ display resilience that challenges victimisation. Five cultural considerations are examined. First, the embracing nature of the self-advocacy movement in terms of its potential for promoting resilient identities. Second, the role of the family in preparing members for self-advocacy. Third, the relationships between (positive) identity formation and institutionalisation. Fourth, specific disabled identities that emerge in self-advocacy culture. Fifth, the problematic though not insurmountable relationship between the self-advocacy and the disability movement. Throughout, reference will be made to the experiences and accounts of members of this counter-culture – self-advocates with ‘learning difficulties’. Moreover, it will be suggested that a subtle and grounded reading of self-advocacy reveals a whole host of emerging radical cultural elements that are challenging the victimisation of people with ‘learning difficulties’.