Linking recognition theory and the social relational model of disability in the context of childhood studies

Emil Søbjerg Falster

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskning


In this paper, which draws on my ongoing PhD, I examine how linking Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition (2006) and Carol Thomas’ social relational model of disability (1999) can provide new insights into childhood studies and research with disabled children. First, I summarize how recognition theory has been used in childhood and disability studies. Second, I explain how linking the two approaches offers new opportunities in the interdisciplinary field of childhood and disability studies.Recognition theory is often used in childhood studies as a normative foundation for critical research, and some researchers have reconstructed the theory using theoretical concepts from childhood studies (Nigel, 2012; Warming, 2015). This reconstruction emphasizes that children are agents who contribute to social integration in society by giving and receivingrecognition. However, in disability studies the theory is seldom used. Instead, disability studies rely on more or less implicit or explicit normative criteria that, in some cases, are not systematically conceptualized or transparent. Therefore, it is unclear which criteria researchers use to identify social oppression or disablism. In other words, the normative foundation of the research is not justified.I address this challenge by connecting recognition theory to the social relational model, both of which have a realistic ontology and constructivist epistemology. The first provides the missing normative foundation, and the second provides a theoretical conceptualization of impairment, impairment effects and disability.&#13The framework consists of two dimensions, which relate to the material and social-relational levels; and five concepts, which are used to identify and criticize different kinds of disrespect and barriers. The first dimension relates to restrictions of activity (material level), and the second relates to psycho-emotional disablism and relations to the self (social-relational level). In some cases, the concepts may apply to both dimensions, e.g. restrictions at the material level can affect psycho-emotional wellbeing at the social-relational level.These dimensions and concepts offer a framework that can potentially account for all kinds of disablism as social pathologies which can be empirically studied by identifying different kinds of disrespect and barriers to being and doing in disabled children’s lives. In particular, such subjective experiences are closely connected to those social structures in society that systematically create and shape the social and physical environment which, in the interrelationship with bodies, produces specific limitations in disabled children’s everyday lives. Therefore, this critical-relational framework switches between children’s experiences and the critical investigation of social structures that create disrespect and social oppression.
Publikationsdatomaj 2019
StatusUdgivet - maj 2019
BegivenhedNordic Network on Disability Research. 15th NNDR Research Conference: Inclusion and Exclusion in the Welfare Society - University College Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Danmark
Varighed: 8 maj 201910 maj 2019
Konferencens nummer: 15


KonferenceNordic Network on Disability Research. 15th NNDR Research Conference
LokationUniversity College Copenhagen


  • Childhood studies
  • Recognition
  • The Social Relational Model of Disability

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