Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

A legacy of silence: the inter-sections of medical sociology and disability studies

Thomas, Gareth M. ORCID: 2022. A legacy of silence: the inter-sections of medical sociology and disability studies. Medical Humanities 48 (1) , pp. 123-132. 10.1136/medhum-2021-012198

[thumbnail of A Legacy of Silence.pdf] PDF - Accepted Post-Print Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (261kB)


Disability remains on the margins of the social sciences. Even where disability is foregrounded as a category of analysis, accounts regularly emerge in silos, with too little interdisciplinary dialogue acknowledging the intersections and/or incongruities. This discord is particularly acute within medical sociology and disability studies, yet there is mostly a legacy of silence about the relationship between the two disciplines. Drawing upon data from a qualitative study with parents of disabled children in the UK, I show the value of meshing ideas and tropes from medical sociology and disability studies to make sense of parents’ lived experiences. They described the challenges of living with impairment and a need to readjust expectations. At the same time, parents were keen to not align with a deficit framing of their lives. They talked in affirmative terms about their children as sources of joy and vitality, perceived themselves as ‘normal’ and described convivial, even unremarkable, interactions in public spaces. Yet, parents encountered difficulties when navigating institutional settings and bureaucratic arrangements, or what was commonly referred to as ‘the system’. Their troubles were not located in their children’s bodies, but in – as per a disability studies sensibility – cultural and structural systems preventing their capacity to live well. I argue that both disability studies and medical sociology offer something to this analysis, thereby recognising the virtues of not simply buying into the tradition of one worldview. I conclude by imploring for more concrete conversations between both disciplines.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN: 1468-215X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 9 August 2021
Date of Acceptance: 26 July 2021
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 21:19

Citation Data

Cited 5 times in Scopus. View in Scopus. Powered By Scopus® Data

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics