Reflecting languages and symbols

The following chapters unfold along a logic of analytical dimensions that advocates portrayed as significant elements of power-knowledge in the field of disability rights that they navigate. These power-knowledge formations (Buhrmann and Schneider 2008:43) cannot always be considered absolutely certain, as they are effects of history and perception. But in this critical analysis they illustrate where ‘discursive battles’ (ibid.) unfold and how political decisions are founded. The analytical formations that guide the book chapters are reflexivity and affiliation (Chapter 4), paradigmatic decisions and relationships (Chapter 5), advocates stabilising scattered strands of knowledge (Chapter 6), critique of socio-medi-cal classification as inducing change (Chapter 7), and how advocates' attempts to produce discourses produce political effects (Chapter 8). On the foundation of these power-knowledge observations, we can gauge the dynamic of international disability rights advocacy—a dynamic that is both a historical snapshot of our time and a sign of where disability human rights might themselves move. It shows where other spheres of rights can learn from dis/ability and which criticism they might encounter at the same time.

An assumption inherent in the purpose of any communicative action in the case of dis/ability is one of their nominal functionality (cf. Allen 2005; Hacking 1999). Given the logic that any description grants access to a given reality, we may assume that lines of distinction are verbally drawn and consolidated through iteration and that actors apply distinctions to serve a given purpose. The maimer in which a reality is described can convey more than just an agreed-upon temporary indication. Functional indication also has a very powerful effect either when actors consciously decide to choose one means over another or when they decide whether to make an issue over the question of what is worthy of consideration in the first place. When using agreed codes around an issue, speakers, translators, and interpreters do not solely reproduce that which has already been put at their disposal by others. They reflect it in their own being, in their interpretative interactions, and in their bodily practices (including the modes of communication they choose). In the process, they may partially lose that which had come earlier while creating new instances of understanding from ‘leftover' parts of others’ interpretations.

With respect to framing, an interpretative observation that describes observed phenomena is, as cultural sociologist Stephan Fuchs put it, ‘a mode of world-making, of “worlding” (2013:15) what is communicated. In Foucauldian descriptions of power, this worlding is a form of dire-vrai (real-speaking) by means of words. This crucial observation needs to be rephrased: what makes for ‘the disability case’ (to apply a legalist wording) is seen, in the nominalist view, not so much as resulting directly from material or metaphysical facts but, conversely, as being discursively constituted. In this view, any form of differentiation and bordering that draws on a logic of distinction (Wierzbicka 2005; Deutscher 2010) results in a spatially and chronologically contingent discursive practice (Allen 2005:99-100; Foucault 1990). What we read, hear, sign, or say would thereby inevitably produce and reproduce realities that might not exist if it were not for our communication about them and that communication’s institutional repetition.

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