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Locating physical disability in Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis: problems and prospects

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In this paper, I use psychoanalytic theory to look at the meaning of disability within an ableist culture, and its relationship to issues of sexuality and death. I suggest that while disability has not been a central focus of psychoanalysis, it has been employed to stand in for something else, and this has had important implications for disability that have yet to be fully explored. Particular emphasis is placed on the use of disability as a 'symbolic substitute' for castration as conceived by Freud and Lacan, and the implications of this formulation for the cultural construction of disabled bodies as lacking. While there is cause for continued caution with respect to this theoretical tradition, psychoanalysis offers important insight into the complex origins of 'aesthetic anxieties' that surround disability within ableist culture, and the way in which these emotions are implicated in the geographic exclusion of 'different' bodies. In particular, psychoanalysis helps to demonstrate the illusory nature of the 'able-body' as a key source of oppression.
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Keywords: Disability; Freud; Lacan; exclusion; psychoanalysis

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-09-01

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