Stigma, Community, Ethnography: Joan Ablon’s Contribution to the Anthropology of Impairment-Disability


Joan Ablon has helped establish the anthropology of impairment-disability and significantly contributed to the role of anthropology in disability studies. In this article, we review the development of and situate Ablon’s ethnographic research in the anthropology of impairment-disability. We then address various methodological issues in her work including her ethnographic approach, her grounding in action anthropology and her support for the development of the academic study of disability in anthropology and the careers of disabled anthropologists. The next section of the article examines Ablon’s use of the notion of stigma, her understanding of community, and her engagement with disability rights. As examples of themes important to disability studies, we present her discussion of the implications of the ideal of the body beautiful, and gender differences in negotiating intimacy for people with physical differences. We close with a discussion of the future of an anthropology of impairment-disability.

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