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    The meaning of 'community' in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities: an historical perspective

    Jarrett, Simon (2015) The meaning of 'community' in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities: an historical perspective. International Journal of Developmental Disabilities 61 (2), pp. 107-112. ISSN 2047-3869.

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    This paper critically examines the term ‘community’ as applied to people with intellectual disabilities over time and aims to describe its shifting conceptualisation from the eighteenth century to the present day. Unpublished documentary sources from Old Bailey criminal trials in the eighteenth century, the Earlswood Idiot asylum in the mid-nineteenth century and early-twentieth-century government reports have been used to explore historical changes in the concept of community. The word community is historically contingent both in its past and present uses. Its meaning has been adapted to strengthen and justify professional claims to own, treat and manage people with intellectual disabilities. Inclusion and community acceptance were normative in the eighteenth century. In later medicalized institutionalization programmes the meaning of community was subverted to endorse and vindicate professional claims. It has been further adapted since deinstitutionalization to support contemporary claims for the social model of community inclusion. Today’s language of inclusion emanates from these historical conceptual shifts, masking a set of unconscious assumptions and meanings attached to the status of intellectually disabled people. The modern concept of community is based on an assumption that people with intellectual disabilities have always been excluded. In the collective memory it has been forgotten that they were, before the asylum, natural members of community embedded within social, economic and familial networks. It is communities themselves that must adapt and remodel rather than trying to remodel those people they originally excluded. Key words Intellectual disability history; Institutionalization; Asylums; Idiocy; Mental deficiency; Community inclusion; Social model of disability; Medicalization.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): asylums, community inclusion, history of intellectual disability, institutionalization, medicalization, social model of disability
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: Simon Jarrett
    Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2018 09:05
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:38


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