How do we understand health in relation to society? What role does culture play in shaping our experiences of, and orientation to, health and illness? How do we understand medicine and medical treatment within a sociological framework?



Nicholas Watson

Disability is a complex and much debated issue pertaining to impaired bodies, social structures and processes. From a politicized perspective, disability should not be seen as a purely medical problem since many of the problems faced by disabled people arise as the result of the way that society is organized.

Disability cannot be considered a universal category rooted in an impaired biological body. Indeed, what is considered a disability is culturally variable. Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, USA, is a famous example, where hereditary deafness was commonplace and normalized for almost two centuries until the early twentieth century (Groce, 1985). The picture is also complicated because disabled people can have impairments that are stable or progressive, and these can range from mild to severe, constant ...

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