Applying the DisHuman: A Community Psychology Project

Whilst we have provided some examples from the critical disability studies literature about the ways in which we envisage the workings of the DisHuman, let us now turn to an area of critical psychology ripe for analysis: community psychology. As we indicated above, we already think that this sub-discipline of critical psychology invites a disavowal of the human subject. Below we draw briefly on a research project to consider the ways in which disability, community and the human subject interact.

From June 2013 to September 2015, a collaborative partnership of universities, and organisations of and for disabled people engaged in a research project “Big Society? Disabled people with learning disabilities and civil society” funded by the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK. In a time of severe cuts to public services, the project was concerned with how people with learning disabilities were faring in the context of austerity. How, we wondered, were people with learning disabilities experiencing opportunities for work, self-advocacy and community inclusion?

The three strands of the project—work, self-advocacy and community inclusion—were drawn from these questions. In terms of community inclusion, we were particularly interested in people’s experiences of circles of support. Circles of support come together to work with people who feel isolated or marginalised within their communities (for more details, visit http://www. During the project, we worked alongside five people with a circle of support and their circle members. Katherine, the full-time researcher on the project, attended each participant’s circle meeting over an 18-month period. The number of times each circle met varied from four to nine times. This longitudinal ethnographic approach meant that Katherine became embedded in the circle first as a member. As part of the ethnography, Katherine attended some training for circle facilitators and then, when a circle facilitator became unexpectedly unwell, Katherine took over the facilitation of one of the circles and also acted as a facilitator for another circle when needed. Our work on this project has allowed us to connect critical disability studies and critical community psychology in a number of analytical moments.

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