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The medical reshaping of disabled bodies as a response to stigma and a route to normality

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Janice McLaughlinORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Disabled people are said to experience stigma because their embodied presence in the world does not fit with how others interact and use their bodies to be social participants. In response they can turn to medical procedures, such as surgery or physiotherapy, in order to reshape their bodies to more closely approximate norms of social interaction and embodiment. This paper explores how medicine plays a role in attempts to be recognised by others as normal and acceptable by minimising disability. It will do so via a focus on disabled young people, in order to explore how their emerging identities and aspirations for the future influence how they think about their bodies, what normality means and their participation in multiple activities that work upon their bodies. The paper draws from an ESRC project that used a range of qualitative research methods with a group of disabled young people. The project explored ways in which participants actively worked on their bodies to be more normal and examined the disciplinary and agency dynamics involved in this work.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McLaughlin J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Medical Humanities

Year: 2017

Volume: 43

Pages: 244-250

Print publication date: 01/12/2017

Online publication date: 06/02/2017

Acceptance date: 24/12/2016

Date deposited: 24/12/2016

ISSN (print): 1468-215X

ISSN (electronic): 1473-4265

Publisher: BMJ Group


DOI: 10.1136/medhum-2016-011065


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