Social Citizenship and Disability: Identity, Belonging, and the Structural Organization of Education

by Gillian Grace Parekh

Institution: York University
Year: 2015
Keywords: Sociology of education ; Social structure ; Special education
Record ID: 2058769
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/28217


The framing of disability is an ongoing, negotiated discourse in which participants build upon, challenge, and reject the political, social, economic, and cultural influences that lead to constructions of impairment. Experiences of racialization, poverty, immigration, gender, and sexuality juxtaposed against defined institutionalized norms and dominant narratives speak to how disability is not only conceived but also experienced. Drawing upon transnational and citizenship theory, this thesis proposes employing a new framework of analysis, centralizing the experience of social citizenship and belonging as an indicator of broader structural equity. Situated in the field of education, theoretical considerations also explore how growing market fundamentalism shapes public schools and contributes to the systematic exclusion of poor and racialized students through mechanisms of disablement such as reduced academic programs and special education placement. This body of work includes three separate, but related, studies exploring historical and current incidences of institutional exclusion. In particular, the nuanced relationship of exclusion to race, class, gender, generational status, and sexuality, complicated with the identification of impairment, is explored. One of the most profound findings of this research is that, although there is much discussion in Disability Studies of the construction of impairment labels, this is the first quantitative analysis to substantiate these claims. Results also indicate that the classroom represents the most stratified space in which student groups defined by race, exceptionality, class, and generational status experience the greatest sense of exclusion. Evidence shows that employing a lens of citizenship and belonging is an authoritative tool in identifying the existence of inequities distributed among myriad identity groups. Furthermore, evidence lends credence to the notion that identification of disability is intimately linked to race, gender, and class contexts.