Social spaces of little people: the experiences of the Jamisons
Abstract:Dwarfs, midgets, even freaks, are the terms that have been used to label little people. Little people are individuals who for genetic or hormonal reasons grow to a height of less than 4 feet 8 inches (1.42 m). While little people face similar issues of access to those of other physically disabled groups, they live in spaces that are designed, both physically and socially, for people of 'average height'. In addition, little people face unique stigmas that are historically rooted in mythology, idealized body types, and the commodification of body difference for profit. This paper draws upon the spatial conception of Henri Lefebvre and the premise that social spaces are produced. Specifically, this paper offers the term, staturized space, to describe how the material environment produces relative stature in common representations of space. Furthermore, it identifies the ways in which dwarfism affects social relations as they are played out in spaces intended for average-height people. Finally, this study describes the ways little people's homes and meetings of the organization Little People of America are re-staturized spaces both physically and socially. The production of such alternative social spaces produces enabling and normative environments for little people. These issues are explored through in-depth interviews and participant observations with a married couple in which both individuals are little people. The case study of the Jamisons is part of a larger project which seeks to reveal aspects of the social spaces of a population that is difficult to access and frequently misunderstood. Geographers can benefit from the perspectives of little people by becoming increasingly sensitized to discourses of height and their material implications in the production of public and private spaces.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2002-06-01