What is a discriminatory model

Contemporary history / n

Historians who have dealt with the history of social inequality in Germany have for a long time primarily investigated the causes and consequences of class, class, class or milieu affiliations. In particular, the German social history, which has been establishing itself in the Federal Republic since the 1960s, has placed its focus here. In the 1980s, gender advanced to become another axis of inequality that was intensively researched. [2] And later came the ethnicity (in the US one would rather use the term race use) as a further inequality category. Today the field of research has become much more plural than in the 1980s: sexual orientation, age or nationality are now also analyzed as social inequality categories and examined in terms of their effectiveness with regard to life situations, opportunities for social participation, socially circulating stereotypes and practices of discrimination and privileging. Disability or non-disability has now also attracted the attention of some German historians. [3]

Definitional difficulties

The researchers of so-called disability studies, to which the disability history is assigned, are, however, faced with a definitional problem: who is actually, and for what reasons, assigned to the group of disabled people whose history is to be researched? On the one hand, there is the bureaucratic-medical definition, which already in the early Federal Republic of Germany determined disability about the ability to work: Disabled was someone who was unable to earn a living from gainful employment or only to a limited extent because of a physical, cognitive or psychological "inadequate ability" therefore, if necessary, was entitled to compensation payments, rehabilitation measures or preferential employment. On the other hand, however, a concept of disability developed over time that was not exclusively oriented towards gainful employment, but also viewed the opportunities for social participation as a yardstick for disability and thus encompassed completely different population groups than the (originally primarily male) employee.

But regardless of these administrative attempts at defining who should and shouldn't be considered disabled, social scientists and humanities scholars and thus the entire field of so-called disability studies have intensively discussed independent clarifications of definitions. [4] Among other things, it was asked whether only people with physical or cognitive / mental impairments belong to the group of people with disabilities, or whether mentally ill people should also be included. Closely linked to this, there was a debate as to whether only those should be regarded as disabled whose otherness can be perceived through the environment, because discriminatory practices are usually attached to the visible impairments. It was asked, for example, that people who suffer from damage to the internal organs are not disabled because these damage are not obvious? And then people with abnormalities that deviate from the aesthetic norm, such as people with above-average facial hair (hypertrichosis), although they do not suffer from any somatic impairment, belong to the group of disabled people because their environment may react to them with stigmatization and discrimination ? [5]

It is also questionable how one distinguishes illness from disability. Over the period of time, as has been suggested, this turns out to be difficult, because there are certainly people who are only disabled once or repeatedly over a short period of their lives, for example people who suffer from psychotic attacks. And there are people who suffer from illnesses for life, but who, like diabetics, are not considered disabled (at least not in common parlance). Hence, it can be assumed that there are flowing transitions and often also mutual dependencies between illness and disability. This also applies to the relationship between disability and age: like many people with disabilities, older people are often restricted in their radius of action and, due to their physical or cognitive disposition, often only have limited opportunities for social participation, but are not considered per se with special needs. Does that mean that research on people with age-related impairments belongs to the topic of disability studies? After all, the bioethicist Rosemarie Garland Thomson already emphasized: "After all, we will all become disabled if we live long enough." [6]

One suggestion to clarify the definition was to put disability and normality in opposition. [7] If people deviate from what is considered normal in a society in terms of their physical characteristics and / or their behavior, and if they are confronted with discriminatory reactions and structures due to this deviation from the norm, then they should be assigned to the group of disabled people. But this definition also has its pitfalls, because what is socially regarded as normal has not been clarified either: under no circumstances has "the" society agreed on what is to be considered "normal" and what is not.

So far, no generally accepted definition of disability has established itself within disability studies and thus also the disability history assigned to this research field. In future attempts at definition, the researchers will also have to deal with the criticism that activists of the disability movement make of such attribution practices. For example, some deaf and dumb people refuse to be categorized as "disabled" and claim that being deaf and dumb they are a linguistic minority with their own culture (deaf culture).

The same applies to the terminology used: In research, different terms are used to name the group to be examined. [8] There are still some scientists who use the term "disabled". However, this term has been criticized for reducing the so-called people to the one characteristic of being disabled. To get around this, many scientists use the word combination "disabled people". "People with disabilities" has also become increasingly popular to emphasize that the fact of the disability is not inherent in the person concerned. In contrast, many researchers tend to use "people with disabilities."en"In order to emphasize that there are many forms of disability that influence the lives of those named. The fact that the terminology in relation to the group to be examined is in flux is also due to current debates from the disability movement that have entered the academic world.