Mediating Ableism:Border work and resistance in the biographical narratives of young disabled people

Autor:in - Tobias Buchner
Themenbereiche: Schule, Disability Studies
Textsorte: Zeitschriftenartikel
Releaseinfo: Erschienen in: Zeitschrift für Inklusion, Ausgabe 02/2015 Zeitschrift für Inklusion (02/2015)
Copyright: © Tobias Buchner 2015


Ableist discourses create normalising „maelstroms“, forcing subjects to (re-)produce hegemonic ideas of „the able body“. Thus, everyone is exposed to ableist thinking and practices and has to „relate“ to them. In this paper, I will pick up a question addressed by disability studies scholar Fiona Kumari Campbell (2008): how do disabled people live with ubiquitous ableism or, rather, how are ableist discourses mediated in the processes of subjectification? In doing so, I will focus on an institution that has been considered as key for (re-)producing power relations between subjects: schools. Practices in schools are informed by hegemonic discourses, imposed on students (and teachers) to produce what Foucault has called „docile bodies“, to generate „normal“ subjects. I will explore how ableist normalities, structuring the spaces of mainstream schools, impact on the subjectivities of young disabled persons and analyse these subjectification processes from a biographical point of view. In the following section, I will start with the introduction of ableism as a critique of (body) normalities, followed by a discussion of subjectification as a „sensitizing concept“ for reading biographical data. After that, I take a closer look at practices in schools and their relation to ableism. In the empirical part of this paper, a case study of a young woman from Austria will be used to reconstruct a specific type of lived experience linked to ableism in mainstream schools. The inherent structure of this case will be compared with two other case studies of young men who also went through mainstream educational settings, in order to contrast the modes of ableist normalisation-imperatives that occurred, the actors involved in generating these imperatives and, finally, the ways that disabled young people mediate these discourses imposed on them. In the last part of the paper, I conclude with a reflection of the normalities displayed in the cases and their meaning for developing inclusive practices in schools.

1. Introduction

Over the last years, ableism has become an important theoretical strand within Disability Studies. Ableism stands for a specific critique of normalcy, aiming to deconstruct the „able body“ and the interlinked power relations. Ableist ideas are inscribed into the hegemonic normalities of European and Northern American cultures so deep that individuals do not even realize the contingency of the underpinning norm(s). Through ableist discourses matrixes of normality are constructed, indicating who fulfils an arbitrarily defined degree of autonomy and body norms and, thus, becomes intelligible as „normal“. As a binary counterpart of the „able body“, impairment is constructed as a deviation from the norm. In this logic, the signifier „disabled“ (equal to not normal) marks the contrast to the signifier „able“ (equal to normal) (Goodley 2014). Impaired body functions, as the constitutive other, stabilise identity formations around the „normal“, „able“. The „ableist divide“ (Campbell 2003) serves to (re-)produce hierarchies between subjects, a hierarchy that favours the „normal“ body and positions the „deviant body“ outside of the boundaries of the „normal“, as something undesirable, as trouble and a problem (Michalko 2009). That is why subjects identifying themselves as „normal“ are scared of impaired bodies, as it reminds them of the contingency and temporality of their subject position „normal“ (Maskos 2011). So the division into normal and not normal is a frontier that is strengthened by affects, phantasms of autonomy and hegemonic ideas of impairment as a tragedy, obscuring the social dimension of disability.

In this paper, I will pick up a question, issued by disability studies scholar Fiona Kumari Campbell (2008), in relation to ableism: how do disabled people live with ableism or, rather, how are ableist discourses mediated in the processes of subjectification? Addressing this topic, I will focus on ableist normalities, the interlinked practices in schools, and their role in the subjectification processes of young disabled people. In the next section of this article, I will elaborate my understanding of subjectification, referring to Foucault and Butler. The following section will deal with methodological issues, reflecting on the relation between biographical narratives and subjectification processes. In the empirical part of this paper, I will draw on data generated from a European project, Quali-TYDES . I will present three case studies, in which subjectification processes linked to mainstream schools will be reconstructed. All cases will be compared concerning the ableist normalities embedded in them and the self-techniques and practices responding to those environments.

2. Subjectification processes in schools

According to Foucault (discipline and punish), subjects are not autonomous actors, but are made and shaped by the power, by discoursive regimes and interrelating practices. Following this understanding, subjectification is a productive process, in which the individual gets subjected and subjects itself at the same time, to become a subject. In these processes, subjects learn to think about themselves and the world in a specific way. They incorporate orders of knowledge that shape their thoughts, emotions and actions. Ableist normalities are part of these orders that are embedded in culture, producing a particular understanding of one“s self and body.

But how are subjects brought to think and act in an inherent way? In his work „Discipline and Punish“, Foucault (1995) outlines a crucial aspect of the „making“ of the modern subject: the configuration of the self „from outside“, via practices in disciplinary institutions. For example, in schools, individuals are subjected by disciplinary and normalizing practices. They need to submit to a pre-arranged hierarchical mode of communication, which includes taking orders from teachers, doing homework, etc. Furthermore, students are exposed to test regimes and need to accept inherent objectification, which is framed by a meritocratic system and intended to individualize and homogenise students: their achievements are measured individually to create a homogenous body of students and this body is defined by the borders of a contingent range of achievements considered as „normal“. In these processes, students „learn“ to become measured and disposed to a hierarchical order of students. The described disciplining practices normalise students, which means they „learn“ to become a „docile body“. These mandatory „learning“ processes can be thought of as active part of the student in his or her process of subjectification: incorporating a system of thinking and arranging actions in line with that system of thinking. In his studies on governmentality, Foucault refers to this aspect of subjectification as self-techniques. These technologies can be understood as the „work on the self“, as the „active“ part of subjectification, when people gain knowledge about themselves and how to „take care“ of themselves. This work is interwoven with self-guidance, leading and generating actions directed towards specific goals (teleoi). Obeying the discoursive regimes and normalities of schools, adopting the mandatory ways of thinking of oneself as a student with certain obligations and working to fulfil these, can be understood as a key and obligatory technology of the self that students adopt in schools as it is interwoven with the subject position „student“.

American philosopher Judith Butler offers a theoretical tool that is also of use in this context. According to her, an individual subjectivates itself „actively“ by „doing“ a certain subject position [1] . These performative practices are discoursively arranged and mandatory for becoming intelligible as a subject. In this case, doing homework, following the orders of teachers, taking a given seat in a classroom, sitting on it in an „appropriate“ way and being attentive could be thought of as „performative practices“ children have to do to become recognized or rather intelligible as („normal“) students. Performing this position (with Butler), or, (with Foucault) developing technologies of the self, generating actions to become a „normal“ student, children and young people incorporate a way of acting and thinking that is informed by the axes of school normality, and this normality is structured by the ideal of „docile bodies“ and meritocracy. That means subjectification processes in schools are „per se“ underlined by an ableist matrix: students learn to incorporate meritocratic ideals which are soon regarded as „normal“, masking the contingency of this mode of thinking.

However, there are different subject positions in relation to learning and achievements. Teachers have a special role in (re-)producing these positions and the intertwined processes, as they often function as what Foucault has called „the judges of normality“ (Foucault 1995, 304). Teachers do not only have to facilitate the learning of students, to transmit different types of knowledge to children and young people, but also have to monitor the production of „normal“ subjects. Students, who perform outside the „normal“ range of achievements, are introduced to different subject positions. One can be considered as the position of „student of excellence“, who performs constantly „above average“. Another one is the student with special educational needs (SEN). Students who perform below average or seem not to follow the „regular schedule“ of child development get into the focus of monitoring practices intended to observe the further developmental and achievement trajectory, scanning for deviances.[2] If an individual performs outside of what is considered as a „normal“ trajectory for too long, she or he is most likely diagnosed as having „special educational needs“ (SEN). Within the logic of the mainstream educational system, the diagnosis is intended to disclose students to specific support programs, which should meet the „special needs“ of the students and, furthermore, are thought to enable full participation. However, taking a critical stance, the diagnosis can be considered as the starting point of a specific subjectification program because the position of student with SEN is interwoven with attributions and expectations that, in some aspects, are similar to the ones pointed towards „normal“ students, but which also differ in other aspects. Students with SEN need to mediate these attributions and the interlinked discourses imposed on them, they have to relate to the obligations that come along with the subject position „student with SEN“. Referring to subjectification processes of students in special schools, German disability studies in education scholar Lisa Pfahl (2011) has shown that individuals can incorporate the mandatory self techniques arising from discourses around special educational needs practises but also take them into question, searching for alternative ways to live this subject position.

It is important to note that there are, of course, more subject positions to be distributed and negotiated in schools, e.g. the positions „girl“, „boy“ or student „with migration background“, and students learn how to inhibit these. In everyday interactions in schools, students incorporate gender dichotomies, get familiar with the expectations of being a girl, with what behaviour and way of dressing is considered as „normal“ for a female student. They learn what it means to be part of a societal majority and what it means not to be an intelligible part of it (Butler 2014). All positions mentioned are linked to professional practices in classrooms and orders of knowledge transmitted in these. However, the impact of hegemonic discourses is not limited to the classroom. Various ethnographic studies have shown that the obligations arising from heteronormative, racist or sexist discourses impact on other spaces of schools, too. The borders of intelligibility are enforced, but also re-negotiated in peer interactions taking place on school playgrounds, in toilets, corridors, etc. For example, Renolds (2006) has pointed to specific performative practices of female students such as „doing girl“, which are linked to a heteronormative matrix. Deborah Youdell explored interactions between boys and girls in Australian secondary schools and how "desirable heterosexual femininity" (Youdell 2005, 250) is reproduced in body practices. In these practices, discoursively generated lines of difference intersect, for example masculinity and disability (Loeser 2010) or masculinity and ethnicity (Youdell 2006), shaping complex subjectification processes in schools. Furthermore, discourses and interlinked subject positions, mandatory practices and self-techniques are of course not restricted to the material borders of schools, but impact on the neighbouring spaces of schools as well. In return, broader societal discourses permeate the spaces of schools and impact on interactions in them (Holt 2007). Families are of key relevance, here. In research on student biographies it was highlighted that not only school cultures and „individual aspect“ shape educational biographies and the inherent academic and social trajectories, but families and the norms that are hegemonic in these spaces too (cf. Kramer 2002, Wieczoreck 2005, Höblich 2010).

In conclusion, subjectification processes in schools can be considered as a rather complex phenomenon. They include the shaping of students“ selves via normalising practices of professionals, but also the incorporation of systems of belief, perception and thoughts as well as the active work on subjectification, such as self-techniques and performative practices, which are obligatory for becoming intelligible as a subject. Taking into account these aspects of subjectification, it seems that schools are vehicles for producing both normal subjects and, at the same time, societal differences and inequality. Indeed, they can be considered as an institution of the „ideological state apparatus“ (Althusser), where individuals have to „pass through“ to become exploitable, docile bodies and, simultaneously „acquire“ subject positions, encircled with specific lines of self-perception and mandatory self-techniques/performative practices. At the same time there are possibilities for „resistance“ and opportunities for enacting agency in the processes of becoming a subject. In his late work, Foucault thinks about technologies of the self not only as a mode of self-configuration in line with hegemonic discourses, but also as self-practices directed against the subjectification that inaugurated and shaped the subject. This (consciously) chosen mode of self-guidance/work on the self, enables the subject to shift the inscribed modes of perception and thinking and allows the subject to „untighten the chains of power“, constraining the self. Foucault thinks of technologies of the self as practices,

"which permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality." (Foucault 1988, 17)

These technologies can be part of an ethical project to shape one“s self and actions in a chosen way, which can be opposed to the discourses that determined the mode of perception and thought, allowing the subject for an endeavour called „desubjectification“ (Foucault 2010, 378).

Furthermore, Foucault notes that even power shapes subjects and knowledge, "[t]here are no relations of power without resistances" (Foucault 1980a, 142). Resistance can be facilitated by „counter discourses“ (Foucault 1980b, 209), offering alternative types of knowledge than the one“s of power, what Foucault refers to as „local“ or „depriviledged knowledge“ (Foucault 1980c, 82), such as the knowledge of psyciatric inmates or delinquents. Counter discourses or deprivileged types of knowledge offer different ways to understand the world and the self, informing different technologies of the self and, thus, allow subjects to re-shape their way of thinking.

Judith Butler points to a different possibility for resistance. Subjects can never escape power and discoursive settings, but, as discourses need to be reiterated by subjects to „stay alive“, the moment of reiteration can be seen as the Achilles“ heel of power, as it offers the possibility for re-signifying the discourse, to shift signifiers and, thus, the borders of subject positions (Butler 1997a). As the thoughts on de-subjectification and re-signification have shown, subjects have some agency in mediating hegemonic discourses imposed on them. But how can these complex processes of subjectification be researched in context of schools? Most studies on this issue have followed ethnographic approaches, and indeed this type of fieldwork enables researchers to observe interactions in schools, conduct interviews with actors in the field, and to reconstruct the impact of hegemonic discourses on practices and the relations between subjects in schools. Research on the re-production of hegemonic discourses in schools, as in the studies mentioned above, has shown the value of this approach. However, it is important to understand that subjectification processes only reveal their full impact over a certain range of time, as subjection and the interwoven practices and technologies have to be repeated to „work“ and to shape the self (Foucault 1995, Butler 1997a; 1997b). Subjectification is a concept that refers to a temporal dimension of the processes it seeks to describe. Sociology in Education scholar Justin Powell (2003; 2011) has pointed to the benefits of a life course approach when researching the „making“ of students in schools over time, including marginalisation processes of individuals positioned as „ethnic minorities“ or „students with SEN “. Such a life course perspective can contribute to reconstructing the development and complexity of subjectification processes over several educational levels and transitions, including pre- and post school stages. In line with these thoughts, the gathering of biographical narratives can be considered as an opportunity to research subjectification processes that is able to grasp the temporal aspects of the shaping of the self in relation to discoursive structures and practices in different stages of school life (Pfahl 2011, Pfahl & Traue 2012, Rose 2012, Kleiner & Rose 2014). However, biographical narratives represent a specific type of data, and the analysis of subjectification processes inscribed in the data is an endeavour that has to be handled cautiously.

[1] Differing from Foucault, Judith Butler refers to these processes as subjectivation (Butler 1997b). However, in this paper, I will use the term 'subjectification' as an umbrella term for the phenomena described.

[2] Tow things need to be mentioned here: First, the practices described do not start with school, as they can be found in familiar, also normalising practices, such as prenatal diagnostics and the monitoring of 'regular' early childhood development (Kelle & Tervooren 2008). Second, it is not only the teachers who are involved in these processes, but also professionals of the so called psysector, such as school psychologists operating tests and other monitoring techniques.

3. Analysing subjectification processes in biographical narratives

What is a biography? Biographies are not a „natural attribute“ of a person, something that is generated „automatically“ over the course of time, but a culturally pre-scripted representation of one´s self. I consider biographical narratives as a mandatory self-technique that has become hegemonic over the last centuries. In modernity, subjects have to present and make sense of themselves in a temporalized way (Hahn 1987, Alheit & Dausien 1990). In contrast to earlier selfconstructions, the modern subject has to understand itself as having evolved and developed over time, which includes the adoption of what Norbert Elias (2000) has called „Langsicht“, meaning the obligation to „plan“ your life prospectively, following a temporalized schedule which is bound to life course institutions (Kohli 1985). Demographic, cultural and social shifts have facilitated the rise of biography as a hegemonic but contingent way to present oneself. Thus, biographies are „made“. Subjects „do biography“ (Denzin 1989, Dausien & Kelle 2006) when they talk about themselves, meaning they construct themselves, referring to events and experiences in their past, interpreting their relevance for the present and the future (von Engelhardt 2011). Biographical self-representations have become part of everyday life interactions (Alheit 2008). By telling their story/ies, subjects narrate themselves; and by narrating themselves they construct a temporalized self-relation. Thus, I understand biographical narratives as a mandatory self-technique of modernity, which individuals have to use if they want to be(come) intelligible as a (biographical) subject. Differing from these temporalized everyday narratives or rather „small stories“ (Bamberg 2006), biographical interviews create specific narrations, as these interviews follow certain rules (e.g. to tell your life in a comprehensive, chronological way, to describe important experiences and events, etc.). So biographical interviews represent data that gives us information about the construction of the self in the moment of the interview. One might even call biographical interviews „self-subjectification live“. And the interpreter has to be careful: this self-practice is not taking place in a vacuum but in a specific space where different discourses might impact on what and how things are told (Rose 2012, Spies 2010). The social configuration of the interview situation influences what can be said and what not. It makes a difference if a female is interviewed by a male or another female, if a child is interviewed by another child or by an adult, etc. How a person represents his/herself might also depend on the interview site and the discourses floating through this space, e.g. if the interview takes place in a school, an office at university, in a private apartment or in the meeting room of a Disabled People´s Organisation. Also, the background of the research or the mode of the recruitment process can have an impact on the narrative self- representation and how the interviewee looks back at her or his life. However, the mode of biographical self-construction is not optional (Dausien 2006) as it – at least to a certain degree – has to refer to past time events and the entangled biographical spaces, the so-called „lived through life“ (Rosenthal 2006). Thus, subjectification processes are inscribed in biographical narratives under different aspects: the self-construction which is produced via the self-technique of telling your life story but also former modes of subjectification, the technologies of the self that shaped self-guidance in previous years, the subject positions that were inhibited in the past. But how can these be identified? The interrogation of biographical data about the embedded technologies of the self means to reconstruct the logic of biographical actions (Pfahl & Traue 2012). Self-techniques guide actions intended to transform the self in a certain direction. Self-techniques are transmitted by discourses, informing the way individuals should behave, who they should be or become, etc. Reconstructing self-techniques in biographical narratives illuminates the discoursive and normative order that dictates or rather influences the shaping of the self - I am following here an idea of Foucault, to reconstruct relations of power by analysing self-techniques (Foucault 1984). Subject positions need to be lived or rather performed in discoursively pre-arranged ways that are dictated by the normalities of biographical spaces and experiences. These normalities and subject positions are inscribed in biographical narrations, and can be reconstructed: traces of normalities and cohesive subjectification mode(s) need to be excavated by detailed interpretative work. Narrators can refer to regimes of normalcy, structuring biographical spaces, experiences and actions in an explicit way, but more commonly they are an implicit part of the story or mentioned „ en passant “ (Dausien & Mecheril 2006), as biographers take them for granted.

Subjectification processes are linked to various biographical spaces, but those in school education are key for becoming a subject. School“s discoursive order and the interlinked, desired normalities structure interactions in these spaces - and, hence, the relations of subjects frequenting them. In biographical narratives, we might only find the „results“, the structure of relations between the biographical subject and others. However, narrations can include citations or parts of interactions, illustrating the discoursive knowledge involved. Furthermore, and as mentioned, student subjects are shaped by professional practices, and the reading of narratives has to pay specific attention to these.

In the empirical part of this paper, I am concerned with subjectification processes in mainstream schools and will present case studies, based on biographical narratives of young disabled persons. The empirical material was generated within a European project. In the following section, I will sketch the outline of the project, the sample and refer to methodical aspects as well.

4. The Quali-TYDES project: aims, sample and methodical aspects

Following a life course approach to disability (Shah & Priestley 2010, 2011), the Quali-TYDES project ( seeks to investigate and explain how international, national and local policies influence the lives of young disabled persons in four European States (Austria, Czech Republic, Ireland and Spain) in order to generate a comparative understanding of policy regimes in relation to disability, family, education and work over time (for a more detailed project description and elaboration of the methodological background, see Biewer, Buchner, Shevlin et al. 2015; Buchner, Smyth, Biewer et al. 2014). However, in this paper I will not focus on these aspects but follow the theoretical outline presented above.

Within the project, three phases of fieldwork were carried out. Following a retrospective angle on the lives of participants, the first phase of fieldwork consisted of narrative biographical interviews (Schütze 1983). Both in 2012 and 2013, follow up interviews were conducted, intended „to travel along“ with participants over a course of two years and to catch up on recent developments in their lives. In this part of the project, 108 biographical interviews were conducted with participants living in the four mentioned countries (n=108). In Austria, 34 young people, all born in the 1980s, participated in this phase. Within the project partnership, a maximum variation sample (Patton 1990) was created: participants varied concerning geographical aspects of their residence, type of impairments, educational attainment, school setting (special vs. mainstream), working status, etc. The Austrian sample consisted of young people living in Lower Austria, Styria, Tyrol, Upper Austria and Vienna, both from rural and urban regions. Educational qualifications ranged from „special school leaving certificate („Sonderschulabschluss“) to Master“s degrees in tertiary education. Furthermore, participants differed regarding their impairment (cognitive, physical or visual/blind) and working status (unemployed, sheltered workshop, first labour market). All participants were in their early to late twenties at the time of the first interview. All interviews were conducted by the author of this paper and transcribed for the interpretation work. In the following, I will focus on the biographical narratives (first phase of fieldwork) of Austrian participants who spent their school careers in mainstream settings. Within educational policy discourse, these young women and men are often referred to as „the first integrated generation“, as they participated either in „integration projects“ at mainstream schools („integrative Schulversuche“) in the 1980s or were able to exercise their newly earned right to be educated in a regular school (In Austria, the 15th amendment of school law gave parents the right to choose if they wanted their child to be educated at a mainstream primary or a special school (1993). In 1995 the 17th amendment included the same regulations but for lower secondary school, cf. Buchner & Gebhardt 2011). Within their narratives – and due to their age and, not surprisingly, their historical position – school experiences were integral parts of participants´ self-constructions. „Global analyses“ („Globalanalysen“, Rosenthal 2005) were conducted with all 34 interviews. Of the 20 interviews of participants who had spent their school lives in mainstream settings 8 were elaborated in a detailed way.

The following empirical part of the paper starts with the presentation of a case study („Kathrin Horvath´s story“), including several sequences of the narration, illustrating the main structures of the case and the way I read the data, employing the theoretical concepts mentioned above. The analysis is focussed on professional practices, interactions with peers at school and the intertwined subjectification processes. Pre- and post-school phases will only be summarised, pointing to core aspects of the interlinked biographical experiences. These emphasises are necessary due to the limited space of this publication. Secondly, two additional cases are presented, pointing to similarities and differences to Kathrin´s story. All three cases represent different modes of mediating ableist norms imposed on disabled students in mainstream settings, found within the Austrian sample of Quali-TYDES.

5. Kathrin“s story

Kathrin Horvath is born in 1986 in Upper Austria, where she grows up in a rural area. At the age of two, the diagnosis of her (visual) impairment marks a momentous event, as she is, from then on, under the supervision of a medical regime. Talking about that time, Kathrin recalls herself as an object of measures and experiments intended to improve her eyesight. Doctors recommend participation in an early intervention program, where she has to do special vision therapy exercises. In the narrative, both medical measures and vision therapy are evaluated as torment, as useless (as it did not lead to an improvement of her eyesight) and a strain for Kathrin and her mother. The biographer visits a „regular“ kindergarten close to her home, where a caretaker of her early intervention service supports her. She remembers herself as a happy child, having a lot of friends. In Kathrin's early childhood, her mother comes into contact with the parents“ movement for integration. Soon, she starts to attend meetings and decided to enrol Kathrin in a mainstream school. Hence, Kathrin transitions to the local primary school at the age of six. In the new learning environment, Kathrin gets supported by an assistant teacher („Stütz-Lehrer“), whose job profile includes visual exercises and advising the class teachers regarding what she calls „integrative exercises“ for the whole class, for example crafting a sheep with wool, so Kathrin can feel the teaching aids. In her narration, Kathrin evaluates her experiences at primary school in a global way as “good days at school” – an evaluation she modifies in the next moment, due to a specific experience linked to her first school:

KH: "Yes, my time in primary school, these were good days at school... it was just, well, a big problem for me was that I had to wear the “Blindenschleife” [which is an identifying armband with the icon for blindness], although I“m not “vollblind” [„totally blind“] and I sometimes even had to wear the vest, like the safety vest, which you need to have today in the car, but only with these three dots on it ...and I had to wear it and that was pretty hard for me / because I“m not totally blind and I had to explain this to my classmates … why I have to wear that vest, and uh, because they said "you are not totally blind and and and and you are not blind" because they had seen me participating in everything, everything they they did, doing everything in a normal in quotation marks way, even PE and everything." (KH 2/54-66)

The sequence addresses a specific problem, which lies not only in what might be termed as confusion of her classmates, triggered by the „vest for the blind“. The narrator explains the confusion of her peers with the inconsistency between her performance and her peers´ expectations towards a “totally blind” person, as they indicate that Kathrin is participating in all activities in a „normal in quotation marks“ way. Her peers´ questions seem to be harmless in the first place, but they can also be read as interrogative, pressuring Kathrin to confess why she needs to wear the vest, which causes a certain discomfort that can be sensed, reading the sequence. This discomfort marks that something far more serious and threatening is at stake here, far more serious than a „simple confusion“ of classmates. The real problem lies in the crack of an important normality of Kathrin's social environment at school, caused by the vest. This normality could be reconstructed as: everybody is allowed to participate as long as impairment or body-difference does not come into play or rather „to the surface“. This is interesting, as Kathrin is visiting a so called „integration class“ and, as the biographer had indicated in a previous passage, her classmates knew about her impairment but her visual impairment must not become visible, it must not become a factor in interactions and in the scene described, it has become a factor because of the vest. As long as Kathrin's impairment stays invisible, as long as she performs „normal“, she is welcome to participate; she is part of the peer group. As long as Kathrin performs „normal“, which means to participate in all activities in the same or similar way as the other students, she is recognized as an intelligible, „normal“ subject. This recognizability is what is at stake in this scene. Kathrin realizes that if she wears the vest she is marked as different and positioned outside of the coordinates of an ableist zone of normality. Kathrin is expected to have a certain set of abilities that allows her to participate in games, but also class activities, in an „autonomous“ way.

Furthermore, she is not allowed to show any sign of a body difference. In the sequence above, the perceived violation of this corridor of normality does „only“ trigger an interrogative mode of her classmates, but the threatening potential of the outlined mechanism impacts deeply on Kathrin's subjectivity. Only a „normal performance“ guarantees that she stays in the zone of normality and, thus, intelligibility and sociality. However, this „obligation“ remains a tricky endeavour, as Kathrin is marked by the vest for „security reasons“. Obviously, the demand to wear the vest counters other professional practices such as the „integrative exercises“ mentioned above.

After primary school, Kathrin continues her educational career in an integration class at the secondary school in the same village. However, after one year she has to leave as her family moves to a different city. Due to the large geographical distance, the family“s change of residence leads to the loss of most of Kathrin's friends. At her new school, Kathrin has a tough start. In her new school“s environment, she cannot establish relevant social contacts - on the contrary, her social position in her new class soon becomes precarious. Her narration explains this problem with two reasons:

"On the one hand, I was a stranger, coming from a different region. On the other hand, I did not see well, and, thus, I was always the other." (KH 4/81-83)

The latter factor increasingly gains relevance for the othering of her peers, also due to a particular professional practice: the so-called "integration lessons" (KH 8/174). In these units, Kathrin gets supported in a separated room. Here, she has to do „eye relaxation exercises“ and play memory. These practices are perceived as meaningless by the biographer, as they have no impact on her vision nor do they contribute to her well-being. However, the main problem is not the uselessness of the exercises, but the social impact of the separation from the other students of her class, marking her as different and this difference is contextualized with her impairment. Her new classmates start to mock her, referring to the "integration lessons" and call her an "Extrawurst" (ironic wording for „special treatment“), which marks the start of a marginalization process in which Kathrin is devalued due to her impairment. This process culminates in the third class of secondary school, when she is bullied frequently. After a while, Kathrin's mum complains to teachers, asking for interventions to support her daughter, "but nothing happened" (KH 1222). Kathrin refers to this phase as follows:

KH: "This was not only some stupid talking or something like that, this violated all borders, a human being whole life was shaken ["erschüttert"]. I fled home from school everyday, with tears in my the beginning of fourth grade [of lower secondary school] I was so frustrated I could not go back to this school." (KH 4/84-5/96)

Kathrin's marginalized position affects her so badly, that she sees no other way but to quit and change school. She enrols in a secondary school in the same city, but the old problems follow her. She is attending „integration hours“ there too and some of her new classmates harass her for the same reasons as her old ones. Due to this hostile atmosphere and her experiences at her former school, Kathrin feels more and more unable to get in touch with other students (including the ones who did not bully her):

KH: "After a while, my pattern of behaviour was that strong that I did not even dare to go to other students, as I always felt as an outsider. I was always good at school, I had always very good marks, as learning was easy to me...and that was one point that was picked up by the other students for bullying me: „you are only receiving good marks because teachers favour due to your impairment!“ I heard this stuff every day." (KH 5/95-6/105)

The continuous othering (Said 1978) leads to Kathrin developing what she terms „my pattern of behaviour“. Interpellations as different and the devaluing of her impairment have impacted deeply on Kathrin's self esteem, restraining her actions. By the practices of othering Kathrin has been positioned as an „outsider“. In the text passage above it becomes clear that Kathrin is not only addressed as such by peers, but that the marginalisation process has impacted deeply on her selfesteem and her agency. Academic learning is not a problem to her, but her peers manage to make this a problem. Due to the visual impairment, extra time is allocated to Kathrin when passing exams. This practice is not seen as self-evident support by classmates, but as advantageous practice, indicating teachers“ preferences to her. Peers relate her good marks not to her academic abilities, but to her „extra rights“ and teachers favouring her due to her visual impairment. The subject position „student with SEN“ is, on an institutional level, linked with adaptations of test situations, sought to equal conditions for all learners. However, her peers do not acknowledge these adjustments. In contrast, they view the practices linked to the subject position as an unjust privilege for Kathrin. Similar to the scene dealing with the vest for the blind, her peers“ accusations indicate that impairment must not become present in social environments at schools. The subject position „student with SEN“ is only possible to live if bodily differences stay invisible due to performative practices that range within the coordinates of an ableist normality. As a result, Kathrin develops a self technique that refers to this framework of normalcy: she tries to push back the discoursive presence of her impairment in the classroom, refusing to participate in the integration lessons and declining the use of assistive technologies and „extra rights“:

KH: “I wanted uh...I did not want the whole uh rights that you get as a disabled person, for example in learning or in testing situations / I did not accept them because I did not want to be treated differently and, thus I demanded a lot from myself, that I am as fast, umm / yes / I know...from my today“s perspective I don´t know how I managed to get through school, because I always sat in the front row, but could hardly read anything from the board / that“s why I cribbed (copied) everything from my neighbour“s exercise book...” (KH 6/118-6/126)

Refusing special support that might make her impairment visible or rather discursively present, Kathrin tries to minimize the possibilities for attacks from her bullies. Her self-technique and the linked practices are focussed on „flying under the radar“, to de-visualize her impairment. The coordinates of normality, which have been discussed before, function here as an aid for navigation. Kathrin develops a technology of the self, which is aiming to transform her subject position „disabled“, equal to not-normal, into normal - by trying to perform normal, and this normality is determined by the body abilities of peers. These self-normalization techniques can be understood as an imperative that is created in a specific school environment. Within the discourses floating through this environment, the visual impairment becomes an undesirable non-ability that needs to be concealed, that needs to disappear from the spaces of school. However, by developing the outlined self-technology, Kathrin exercises agency as well, in an ableist world. Trying to „fly under the radar“ of her peers, Kathrin can minimize the attacks of her peers and is able to survive school. However, these practices cost a lot of energy. Kathrin finishes lower secondary school completely exhausted and decides to pause her educational career for a while, then enrols in a technical college. There, she receives great marks and feels more comfortable, makes new friends, as she says, but maintains her performative practices, intended to perform normal. After school, Kathrin works in different jobs, such as being a project manager or office manager. In these early career years, the subjectification mode imposed on Kathrin in schools merges with the compulsions of neoliberalism.

KH: "I was always stressed, thought I should work more, work harder, and so on. I always had to be perfect! „I need to compete!“ achieve more qualifications and stuff like that. I did not allow myself to stand still." (KH 17/390-17/394)

In these lines, a strong tractive towards neoliberal self-optimization becomes apparent. Her practices aim at perfect performance and create a mode of permanent upgrading of skills. After three years, aged 23, she collapses due to the stress level. She starts psychotherapy and reflects on her school years and the interwoven experiences lingering on self-techniques. This part of her life is dedicated to a different work on the self, trying to think of herself and her impairment in a different way:

KH: “... and I demanded from myself, also due to my disability / because I perceived the disability as a shortcoming, it was for was a shortcoming, but I could not fix it/ I tried in all aspects, in all areas, I tried to be perfect in quotes... I tried to make up for this shortcoming, I tried to give everything that nobody would realize I have low vision. Yes, and this was a time where I took a closer look at myself, I thought about me and my life in a very intensive way." (KH 16/375-16/382)

This self-reflecting passage illuminates the discoursive order of school spaces and the interwoven regimes of ableist normalities. In line with this order, impairment is a deficit, a shortcoming that needs to be fixed. The perfection aspired by Kathrin is mirrored in a „normal“ body with „normal“ abilities and a certain autonomy. The outlined normality and their impact on relations between subjects create a maelstrom, pushing Kathrin to perform „normal“ so „nobody would realize I have low vision“. This ableist normality informs Kathrin's thoughts and understanding of her self and, in the end, also the development of the self-technique outlined above. Impairment is subjectivated as a deficit that needs to be transformed or, if that is not possible, to be hidden, so Kathrin can become intelligible as normal, all backed up by an incorporated individualised thinking of disability. However, the passage indicates as well Kathrin's work on her self to de-subjectificate the patterns of thinking herself and her impairment, an endeavour that is central to her in the moment of the interview and the last years.

5.1 „Flying under the radar“: border work at the frontiers of ableist normalities

Kathrin's story reveals school environments in which the risk of becoming identified as bodily different lurks over Kathrin constantly. The expectation to perform normal and the linked positioning of impairment as undesirable deviation of the norm can be reconstructed in the interactions with her peers at different school levels and the interlinked discourses of disability and normality continue to float through school spaces until the end of lower secondary school. However, what changes is the level of responses when Kathrin's impairment „comes to the surface“. While wearing the vest for the blind leads to interrogative questions from her peers, indicating the contours of an expected normal performativity, the separation from the class and her „extra rights“ at lower secondary school spark marginalisation and bullying. At this stage of her school career, Kathrin needs to „fly under the radar“ to survive, „to make it through school“, as she states. However, her peers“ behaviour, Kathrin's subjectivity and professional practices at the school seem to be interwoven. The „integrative didactics“ at primary school are obscured by the obligation to wear the vest. Reading the normality inscribed in Kathrin's narration about these early school years, one might say that professionals only succeeded in establishing an environment in which „passing for normal“ is mandatory but impairment has to be hidden because it is constructed as deviation from a hegemonic normality. At secondary level, the separation practice of the "integration hours" interpolates Kathrin's body difference into classroom discourse and stimulates the excluding practices of her peers. The bullying creates a much stronger normalisation imperative than at primary school stage, also due to the ignorance of teachers who do not intervene even after Kathrin's mum complained repeatedly both to the school´s director and the teachers. Essentialist body norms determine subject relations and performativities in both schools. Ableist normalities become a discoursive resource that peers draw upon, establishing a power relation that subjects Kathrin to being inferior due to her impairment. In this scenario, peers mutate to „judges of normality“, backed up by professional practices that need to be considered as highly problematic. First, these practices are othering Kathrin and this othering is reified and intensified by her classmates. Second, secondary school teachers do not seem to care about subject relations in their classes, about Kathrin being bullied and excluded due to her impairment, not to mention setting up and maintaining a school culture that welcomes diversity. In her last class at lower secondary school, teachers only try to offer support by allowing Kathrin to „compensate“ for her impairment in test situations. However, her peers´ reactions illuminate their perception of impairment and teacher practices, and this mode of thinking is not challenged.

Reflecting Kathrin's reactions towards the discoursive structure of her school environments, I consider her self-technique and practices as border work , to stay and perform within an ableist zone of normality, which must not be crossed. If an individual wants to become an intelligible part of this zone, she/he needs to fit the norms of an autonomous body and should demonstrate the abilities linked to this ideal or at least try hard to be able to „perform“ normal. The use of assistive devices or assistance is not allowed in this scheme of compulsory abledness. The border strips are strictly guarded by peers, who not only mutate to „judges of normality“, but also become what I consider as border patrols, „stripsearching“ bodies in the borderlands of both sides of the ableist boundary. In an ableist school culture, identifying bodily differences and violating concerned subjects reproduces the able-bodiedness of „normal students“. By pointing to the deviances from normality, peers can reassure their superiority within an ableist matrix of bodies and subjectivities. Kathrin unpacks the discoursive messages and practices of her peers, all focused on her body and abilities, into a self-technique that is intended to fly „under the radar“ of these border patrols. The „ableist gaze“ supervises all individuals at school, distributing hierarchical subject positions and illuminating an ableist normality that has an „above and below“. In Kathrin's story, school life becomes a battle in the borderlands of this normality.

Taking a biographical perspective on subjectification processes, Kathrin's story reveals the increasing impact of ableist school cultures on Kathrin's subjectivity. These regimes of subjectification resonate in technical college and post school stages. The self-technique „flying under the radar“ is pursued in working life and reinforced by ableist discourses floating through these contexts (compulsory lifelong learning and neoliberal self-optimisation). However, Kathrin's work on the self shows the opportunity to challenge her ableist subjectification at a later stage in life, trying to think of herself and her impairment in a different way. Furthermore, subjectification processes in school seem to interrelate with the ones of pre-school life. The regimes of early intervention can be read as part of normalizing practices, „setting up“ a way of thinking of the impairment in an individualized way, as something that is undesirable and needs to be transformed, to be normalized. Judith Butler (1997b) points to early childhood as a particularly vulnerable phase, where norms are inscribed deeply into subjectivities of children. Thus, early intervention practices, and the individualized, medical knowledge of impairment transmitted in these practices, can be read as setting the stage for the development of a passionate attachment to ableist norms, which is strengthened by the compulsory abledness mirrored in the normalities of school spaces, enforced by the border patrols of peers.

In Kathrin's story, ableist discourses structure school normalities, subjectificating all students, but distributing different subject positions with specific understandings of one self and related practices. Responding to these ableist worlds, Kathrin develops the self-technique of „flying under the radar“, which enables her to survive hostile environments, enforced by the border patrols of normality. Looking back at her time in mainstream settings, evaluating her experiences, Kathrin states: "well, insofar, I did not receive much good things from Integration." (KH 9/191). However, Kathrin's work on the self, trying to dismantle ableist self-perceptions and self-techniques, points to her agency, resisting regimes of normalcy in her post school phase. Reflecting on the ableist markers that structure "the world of the normal" (Zola 1993), Kathrin moves "into that space that exists between the seductive world of normate culture and experiences that say "You are not that!" " (Titchkovsky 2001, [5]).

The following case shows a similar subjectification mode, but a different self-technique.

6. Markus' story: academic excellence and body-work as key to educational and social participation

Markus is born in 1989 and, after kindergarten, he visits an integration class at primary school. He is introduced violently to ableist normalities when he is bullied at 3rd grade. Similar to Kathrin´s story, teachers do not intervene. However, due to his grades, Markus becomes recognized as a „student of excellence“, too. Performing this subject position, emphasizing his cognitive abilities and demonstrating his broad range of knowledge, the negatively encircled position „student with SEN “ is loosing its relevance among peers. In the transition process from primary to secondary school, Markus and his mother search for half a year for a grammar school „willing to accept“ him as student. Despite having a school report with excellent grades, several directors of grammar schools refuse his application, pointing to his physical impairment. After a while, Markus´ mother becomes more and more desperate: "then mom said she is going to enrol me in a special school" (MO 875-876). Finally, after months of searching and begging, a director of a gymnasium „allows“ him to visit his school but only after Markus was forced to demonstrate that he is able to write by hand „despite the hemiplegia“, causing the director to cry out with astonishment. However, the director limits his permission for educational participation: Markus is only allowed to attend the school, as long as he receives good grades and does not need additional support, as long as he can participate in an „autonomous way“. In the beginning of grammar school, Markus is isolated among his peers, what he relates to a „natural characteristic“ of him, being shy. However, over the course of the following years, Markus is able to ensure his social and educational participation by developing two strategies: On the one hand, he reverts to performing as a“student of excellence“, drawing peers“ attention to his academic capabilities. On the other hand, he develops a strong competitive attitude towards physiotherapy, being proud to be „one of the hardest working guys“ there, as he terms it. However, in the third year of grammar school, the condition of his knee worsens and he thinks about using a wheelchair. However, his director“s words echo in the following quote of the narration: "yes, and it was clear, that if I cannot walk any longer, than I need to change school " (MO 1254). Scared of this scenario, Markus decides to have a surgery and, after rehab, his body functions have changed. Peers applaud these body-transformations:

"and then, for two years, there was this marathon of admiration ("Bewunderungsmarathon"): „Oh, you are able to do so much!“" (MO 5880-5881)

The normalisation of his body functions, in combination with the self-technique „striving for excellence“, leads to a change of his sociality too. By performing at an excellent academic level and becoming known throughout school as „intellectual“, Markus fulfils the codex of a circle of „outstanding students“, which receive Markus to their group and, finally, become his friends. As in Kathrin's story, professionals and peers re-cite ableist norms and impose them on Markus at primary school. Due to his performance as student of excellence, Markus is able to shift his peers´ attention to a different focus. One might say that striving for excellent marks is a rather typical focus of practices in schools, especially in grammar schools. However, his subject position as „student of excellence“ is regarded as key for establishing a positive sociality in the narrative. Furthermore, at grammar school, a continuous, excellent performance is a respond to the first constraint: ensuring access to education. The second obligation for access to school (keeping a certain level of autonomy) leads to ableist body-work, climaxing in the surgery. At the core of this project lies an incorporated understanding of disability, in which impairment is something that needs to be eliminated or at least transformed to a level that could be called the outer boundaries of normality. So Markus is doing border work, too. But in contrast to Kathrin's story, his border work is a response to the ableist obligations of a different actor: the director of his school. His transition to secondary level, which can be characterised as an odyssey for access to education, searching for a grammar school, „willing „to accept him „despite“ the impairment, includes a strong discoursive message to Markus, which could be termed as: „you need to fulfil these obligations because this is your only chance for education at grammar school“. Interestingly, these events take place at a point of time, when Austrian school law had already been amended, ensuring the „right“ for disabled students/their parents, to choose an educational setting (special vs. mainstream). The practices in Markus story point to a strong reluctance of professionals to implement the educational policies.

Ableist normalities are inscribed in Markus' journey through mainstream education at different levels. In his narration, the self-technique „striving for academic excellence“ is referred to as a „story of success“, enabling Markus to re-negotiate his subject position as „student with SEN “ in primary school and, at grammar school, enabling him to transform isolation into the sociality of the circle of „outstanding students“. In the post school phase, Markus' striving for excellence enables him to study at university. His achievements there set the base for an academic profession. However, in a different case, the importance and biographical possibilities linked to counterdiscourses of disability become obvious.

7. Simon´s story: the counter-discourses of the disabled people´s movement as resource for an enabling mode of subjectification

Simon is born in 1984 with the same physical impairment as his brother, who is 16 years older and becomes an activist of the Austrian disabled people´s movement during Simon´s childhood. Not only does his brother advocate for the right support for Simon at primary school, but also provides his family with the collective knowledge of the disabled people´s movement, offering strategies to pressure authorities for the right support. However, it is not only this type of knowledge, but also his brother´s approach to disability that can be seen as a central discoursive resource for Simon´s life. Thinking about disability as a result of barriers, exclusion and the wrong support leads to different technologies of the self, in contrast to those of Markus and Kathrin. Simon´s narrative includes hints on conflicts with peers too. On the one hand, he literally hits back, and underlines his agency in this part of the narrative stating that he can "be very nasty" (SH 1453). On the other hand, he develops a specific mode of explaining his peers´ behaviour, relating their attacks to their uncertainty, as they are not used to being with disabled people. Taking a look back, he even frames his peers“ behaviour and going to mainstream school as positive, as it helped him to develop self-techniques to get along in a „rough world“. "If I would have gone to a special school, I never would have learned that." In Simon´s story, ableist school environments can be decoded too but, when compared to the other cases, they impact on Simon´s subjectivity in a different way, due to a subjectification mode that is informed by the counter-discourses and practices of the disabled people´s movement, transmitted by his older brother. Being able to think about disability in a „social model-way“, Simon develops a different understanding of support too. In a self-reflective passage, Simon certainly thinks of himself as interdependent, relying on his family, personal assistants and others, illuminating an understanding of the self that is opposed to hegemonic neoliberal ideas of the autonomous, super-able subject.

However, Simon´s school career is not only possible because of his brother´s way of support, but also because of different professional responses to his impairment. At primary school, a ramp is installed at the front door, literally „paving the way into mainstream education“. Like Markus, Simon also transitions to grammar school but in contrast, the director at the grammar school „tricks“ the school system by applying for a civil servant who, on paper, is dedicated to assist the director but in reality serves Simon as a personal assistant, enabling his participation in secondary education.

8. Mediating ableism: normalities of schools, self-techniques and agency

Reading Kathrin´s and Markus´ biographical narratives, an ableist symbolic order of the school becomes apparent, informing practices of professionals and subjectificating all students. However, these environments and the entangled discourses around disability impact specifically on the subjectivities of disabled students, creating a maelstrom towards an ableist-centred normality. In Kathrin´s case, teacher practices prepare the ground for marginalisation. These practices point to an individual model for understanding disability as support is only focused on medical aspects. School cultures and subject relations between students do not seem to be part of teachers´ professional responsibilities. In such a school environment, „nondisabled“ peers re-cite ableist discourses, addressing ability expectations towards Kathrin, compelling her to participate in their „world of the normal“. These experiences are similar to the ones embedded in Markus“ educational biography. Both students are forced to relate themselves to ableist interpellations and mediate ableist discourses imposed on them. Thus, the outlined school environments create a strong normative pressure to perform „normal“ or rather to do border work to stay within the outer boundaries of normality. As indicated before, peers play a key role in this process, functioning as what I consider as border patrols. The aligned normalising practices signify peers´ contingent positioning as „normal“, making them beneficiaries of the reigns of an ableist normativity, creating a discoursively dominating majority of the able bodied. However, at the same time, this doing normalcy compels all subjects to perform „normal“, subjecting all individuals in a class to an ableist normativity. However, professionals“ and peers“ practices fabricate a subject position of „student with SEN“ that is interlinked with imperatives to transform this position by work on the body and the self. Responding to these ability expectations, disabled students develop selftechniques and practices such as „flying under the radar“ and normalising bodywork. This work on the self is a product of a certain normalcy that has been addressed by several disability studies scholars. Kathrin´s and Markus´ narratives illuminate a reign of normality in schools that is based on the ableist divide (Campbell 2003). Peers refer to this gap, outlining the threats of what it means „to live on the other side of normality“ in an ableist school environment. Peers´ border patrols safeguard or rather reproduce the ableist divide, upholding and maintaining the dichotomies of the dis/abled body. Pointing to the divide, classmates re-cite the coordinates of the zone of normality and force subjects to move and stay within this zone, fulfilling a specific role in a regime of normalcy that has been called „compulsory able-bodiedness“ (McRuer 2002) or „compulsory abledness“ (Campbell 2008). Under the reign of ableist normalities, no body just chooses to be „normal“ (McRuer 2006) as the compelling self-techniques, focussed towards the centre of normality, are guided by imperatives to get positioned in and stay within the coordinates of an ableist terrain. Analysing the role of peers, it needs to be emphasized that their practices refer to the institutionally produced classification „student with SEN“ and the way professional practices shape this subject position in mainstream schools.

Simon´s narrative, however, portrays a different story. Spending school time in mainstream environments during almost the same period, Simon´s subjectivity differs strongly from the cases discussed before. This is due to the degree of support at two levels: First, professional support, both at primary and secondary school, is perceived as enabling for participation. Interestingly, the director of the grammar school has to „trick“ the school system (claiming that the civil servant would assist him) to provide proper support for Simon, illuminating an ableist school system that, at least at that point of time, is far away from being inclusive. However, the director´s practices within this system differ significantly from his colleague described in Markus´ story. Second, Simon receives considerable support from his brother, revealing how important the availability of discourses of the disabled people´s movement is for everyone (as they challenge the terror of ableist discourses that impact everyone in society), but in particular for disabled students and their self-constitution, allowing a different mode of subjectification. Thinking of disability in a „social model way“ enables Simon to live subject positions differently, even when he is experiencing ableist interpellations of his peers as well. Simon can mediate ableist normalities in an alternative way, developing technologies of the self that are guided by the insights and counter discourses of the disabled people´s movement. It is important to note that this is possible due to his access to discourses that challenge ableist norms, but also because of the sociality of the intertwined process. His brother predominantly transmits the discourses mentioned, but his activism in the disabled people´s movement allows Simon to connect with other disabled peers, too. This part of his social network provides the opportunity to share experiences with disabled peers, enabling Simon to understand disability not as an individual category but as discoursive effect of a specific hegemony. Due to this sense of belonging, the interlinked knowledge and counter-practices, Simon´s agency varies greatly compared to the other cases. Living this way, his work on the self becomes part of a collective work, shifting discourses around impairment and disability, challenging the ableist borders of normality: to him, being dependent on support is normal but does not restrain the way he thinks of himself and his agency. Simon´s story can be considered as a „lived example“ for Hanna Meissner´s suggestion (Meissner in this special issue): in line with Butler, thinking ourselves as naturally dependent and vulnerable, can be thought of as resistance to ableist regimes of normalcy and, at the same time, as subjectivity that can provide the ground for living inclusion.

9. Has integrative education failed?

Referring to recent discourses around inclusive education, one has to ask: has integrated schooling failed in the cases presented here and, if yes, in which dimensions? These are tricky questions as they are, all too often, issued by advocates of special schools, intended to support a line of argumentation pointing to the purported „benefits“ of special schools that are often regarded as „safe havens“ („Schonraumfalle“, Schumann 2007). However, in order to develop inclusive practices in schools further, these topics need to be addressed. Taking a look at Kathrin´s and Markus´ stories, their experiences underline a critique of integrative education as mainstreaming disability, which does not include individual support and inclusive social spaces, but is an imperative to adapt to the ableist normalities of schools (Hinz 1993). The professional practices, reconstructed in both cases, open doors for othering and marginalisation processes of individuals who are perceived as differing from an ableist body norm, illuminating an ableist normalcy that structures the relations between subjects. These ableist school cultures seem to be untouched by the implementation processes of the amended Austrian school law in the 1990s. School culture relations between peers and the interwoven subjectivities seem not be included in the duties of teachers, especially not at secondary level, as illustrated in the two cases, but these significant aspects were reconstructed in a lot of cases of the Quali-TYDES sample. Thus, the „social aims“ of integration were not realised in these cases. But, considering the academic achievements of participants in mainstream schools, preparing them for a post school career in the first labour market or studying at university could be, from a sociology of education stand point, considered as success in contrast to trajectories linked to special schools. The narratives of other participants of the Quali-TYDES sample show that these schools failed to equip students with the necessary skills for post-school worlds, merely enhancing transitions from one segregated setting to the other (special school to sheltered workshop, cf. Buchner & Smyth 2015 a, b). Similar results can be found in other studies (e.g. Pfahl 2011; Fasching 2014). Furthermore, experiences reported by other participants of the Quali-TYDES sample show that the spaces of special schools are structured by ableist discourses as well and are dominated by practices that could be described as prioritising physical functioning over academic achievement. Experiences in special schools included interpellations of disabled students as inferior subjects of schooling by professionals, as well as bullying by peers, creating a hierarchy of dis/abilities among students and „disabled subjectivities“ (Buchner & Smyth 2015 a,b). In comparison with subjectification processes linked to mainstream schools, those in special schools lead to a much lower level of agency for mediating ableist discourses in post school lives, mirroring the results of other biographical research on the impact of special schools in Germany (Holaschke 2015, Pfahl 2011).

10. Conclusions: challenging ableism in schools and the role of research

Research, shifting the focus from individual deficits to ableist normalities and their demands, can inform inclusive school development and help us understand, why specific implementations of integrative education and the interrelated practices lack to establish social participation of all students, imposing ableist imperatives on children and young people. The case studies of Kathrin and Markus show that it is school culture what needs to change. School cultures are created by discourses and the aligned practices, so if school cultures need to change, discourses and practices need to change. Ableist normalities and the interwoven „ability expectations“, floating through and imposed on subjects in mainstream educational environments, structure subjectification processes that disable all learners, being part of a normalcy that makes inclusion impossible. In response to the ableist reigns, deconstructed in the case studies above, inclusive practices need to challenge ableism in schools and transform these normalities into what has been called a culture celebrating the diversity of all learners. Challenging ableism is a task that needs to be worked through at all levels of the educational system. This challenge needs to be supported by the discourses and practices of the disabled people´s movement. Simon´s story reveals the benefits of counterdiscourses, offering a different mode of subjectification, challenging ableist assumptions and practices. Disability pride and peer support are helpful in this endeavour (cf. Köbsell 2007). Furthermore, majorities of the able bodied need to be supported in their necessary work on the self. This work means to de-subjectificate the ableist norms inscribed in expectations and practices, or rather to allow for subjectification modes that refer to inclusive norms. This process can be informed by future research that focuses on the constructions of normalities by teachers and nondisabled students, in order to understand and shift the ability expectations governing us all. In addition, diverse teachers teaching diverse students are a crucial part of this project of challenging and shifting ableist norms in schools. Hence, this endeavour affects teacher education and recruitment policies as well.

11. Acknowledgements

The Quali-TYDES research project is funded by the Austrian Science Fund (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung, FWF project number I 343) and part of the European Science Foundation“s ECRP-program. I gratefully acknowledge the grant awarded to me by European Science Foundation for a research visit at Trinity College Dublin in 2014, enabling me to work on this and other texts. Furthermore, I express gratitude to all members of the „Forschungswerkstatt“ lead by Bettina Dausien at the faculty of education/University of Vienna for helping me interpreting the data. I also would like to acknowledge the support of Charlotte Lamptey for proofreading this text.

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Tobias Buchner: Mediating Ableism: Border work and resistance in the biographical narratives of young disabled people Erschienen in Inklusion, Ausgabe, 02/2015, , ISSN 1862-5088

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