Malacrida, Claudia (2012). “Bodily Practices as Vehicles for Dehumanization in an Institution for ‘Mental Defectives’”, Societies 2012, 2, 286-301.
This article analyzes the processes of dehumanization that occured in the Michener Centre, a total institution for the purported care and training of people deemed to be mental defectives that operated in Alberta, Canada. I report on qualitative interviews with 22 survivors, three ex-workers, and the institutional archival record, drawing out the ways that dehumanization was accomplished through bodily means and the construction of embodied otherness along several axes. First, inmates’ bodies were erased or debased as unruly matter out of place that disturbed the order of rational modernity, a move that meant inmates were not seen as deserving or even requiring of normal human consideration. Spatial practices within the institution included panopticism and isolation, constructing inmates as not only docile but as unworthy of contact and interaction. Dehumanization was also seen as necessary to and facilitative of patient care; to produce inmates as subhuman permitted efficiency, but also neglect and abuse. Finally, practices of hygiene and sequestering the polluting bodies of those deemed mentally defective sustained and justified dehumanization. These practices had profound effects for inmates and also for those charged with caring for them.
Malacrida, Claudia (2010). “Understanding Income Support Policy in Canada and the United Kingdom: Women’s Narratives and Critical Discourse Analysis”, Disability & Society, 25:6, 673-686.
This paper examines linkages between women’s experiences in accessing information, services and public policy relating to income support in Canada and the UK. Drawing on narrative interviews, the author finds mothers with disabilities are often embedded in complex relations of care, experiencing both embodied and social barriers. Additionally, by employing critical discourse analysis, it is clear that policy in both contexts is written not only inaccessibly and confusingly, but is directed toward an able‐bodied, independent, resource‐rich ideal citizen. Thus, policy in both contexts is disabling and pathologizing. There are differences in resources that are written into the policy and available through the UK network of Citizen’s Advice Bureaus that would indicate that the UK offers a breadth of services and avenues for advocacy that are unavailable in Canada. Further, the Canadian policy appears to be more adversarial and surveillance‐based than the UK policy.
Malacrida, Claudia (2009). “Performing Motherhood in a Disablist World: Dilemmas of Motherhood, Femininity and Disability”, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 23:1, 99-117.
Women are expected to aspire to norms of femininity that include ideal motherhood, where mothers are positioned as ever available, ever nurturing providers of active, involved and expert mothering – indeed, being a caregiver is a master status for adult women in modernity. While this may be the case for all women, mothers who are disabled can have more a complicated relationship to ideal motherhood than others, because they are perceived of either as asexual and inappropriate to the role of motherhood, or conversely because they are seen as sexually victimized and at risk. This study examines the contradictions and tensions embedded in disabled mothers’ performances of ideal motherhood, drawing on qualitative interviews with 43 Canadian mothers with a variety of disabilities. The article examines how women with disabilities reconcile the demands of ideal mothering against the realities of their disabilities. I ask how these women perform motherhood in ways that will undermine or challenge the perceptions of others. It also attends to the ways that normative orders relating to femininity and motherhood are embedded in mothers’ social interactions with peers, helping professionals and structures such as funding and care provision policies. Despite these barriers, however, women with disabilities go to creative and extraordinary lengths in order to be seen as complying with ideal motherhood, perhaps as a way to lay claim to a maternal and sexual identity that society frequently denies them. The experiences of mothers with disabilities as they negotiate the tensions of ideal motherhood permit us to see the challenges this construct poses for all women, and thus they call for a feminist politics that will challenge this ideal and work for change in the lived experiences of mothering.
Malacrida, Claudia (2009). “Gendered Ironies in Home Care: Surveillance, Gender Struggles and Infantilization”, International Journal of Inclusive Education,13:7, 741-752.
Women are normatively expected to provide nurturance to the men in their lives through emotional support, and to the children in their lives through active, involved and expert mothering – indeed, being a caregiver is a master status for adult women in modernity. While this may be the case for all women, mothers who are disabled can have more a complicated relationship to caregiving than others, because they are both receivers and providers of care in the home. Women with chronic disabilities are often recipients of home care services that are designed to provide them with ongoing personal care, housekeeping assistance and health or support services. Conversely, mothers with disabilities, like all mothers, are expected to be providers of services to their partners and children. In this article, I examine the contradictions and tensions embedded in disabled mothers’ relations of care, with a particular focus on the ways that barriers embedded in public home care service delivery complicate disabled mothers’ abilities to provide care. I find that home care policies operate in ways that assume that disabled women will not, perhaps even should not, fill gendered partnership or mothering roles. In turn, this can cause problems for these women in terms of providing care, of achieving adequate mothering and occasionally, of maintaining custody of their children.
Malacrida, Claudia (2007). “Negotiating the Dependency/Nurturance Tightrope: Dilemmas of Disabled Motherhood”, The Canadian Review of Sociology, 44:4, 469-493.
Normative femininity offers mothers a tightrope of nurturance and dependency. On the one hand, good mothers should be dependent through a relationship with a male provider. Conversely, they should provide nurturance through active, involved and expert mothering. This tightrope poses challenges to women with disabilities whose dependency on male partners can bring vulnerability to abuse, while dependency on the state can result in poverty and surveillance. This article explores the dilemmas disabled mothers face, reconciling their position of dependency against their children’s need for nurturance. Complicating negative conceptions of dependency, many women described how some relations of dependency provided them and their children with positive networks of support.
Malacrida, Claudia (2006). “Contested memories: efforts of the powerful to silence former inmates’ histories of life in an institution for ‘mental defectives’”, Disability & Society, 21:5, 397-410.
This paper discusses the barriers encountered in undertaking an oral history project with survivors of a total institution for ‘mental defectives’ in the province of Alberta, Canada. Powerful social actors were able to bar access to survivors through legal guardianship orders, and to make access to the institution and its grounds to publicly archived materials quite prohibitive to the researcher. In addition to overt efforts on the part of powerful social actors to block the project, concerns about the potential to discredit survivor narratives led to changes in the research design. Specifically, research and literature about the ‘acquiescence’ of individuals with intellectual impairments led the researcher to broaden the sources for this history as a preemptive strategy. Despite these barriers, survivors of the institution provided a rich and powerful testimony to the brutality of institutionalization, and provide us with an emancipatory history from the perspectives of those most oppressed by disability policies and practices.
Malacrida, Claudia (2005). “Discipline and dehumanization in a total institution: institutional survivors’ descriptions of Time-Out Rooms”,Disability & Society, 20:5, 523-537.
This article reports on interviews with 21 institutional survivors who lived until the mid- to late-1980s in a total institution for the ‘training and care’ of ‘mental defectives’ in Alberta, Canada. The focus in on survivors’ descriptions of ‘Time-Out Rooms’, used to discipline unruly and escaped inmates. Foucault’s theories about the disciplinary properties of modern society, the use of the gaze, technologies of the self and scientific discourse are both supported and complicated by survivor narratives. In addition, the work of Erving Goffman is examined in terms of the process of dehumanization in total institutions. Ties between institutional practices and eugenics are speculated upon.