“WE CAN’T CLOSE IT YET”: HOW DISCOURSE POSITIONS PEOPLE WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES

Karen D. Schwartz

Abstract


In 2004, the government of Manitoba decided to spend $40 million to upgrade the Manitoba Developmental Centre, an institution housing people with intellectual disabilities. By examining local newspaper accounts of this story, I use discourse analysis as a means of uncovering how language works to position people with intellectual disabilities in certain ways. I rely upon Wolfensberger’s (1998) devalued social roles as an analytical framework to consider how our society understands and characterizes these individuals. I argue that within this discourse, people with intellectual disabilities have been cast into three devalued roles: as the object of paternalism, as the object of the professional gaze, and as the failed human.

Keywords: People with intellectual disabilities, devaluation, devalued roles, discourse analysis, newspapers

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