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The materialization of discourse on body in geographies of the city:

Closing off the body’s publicness discourse

von Olgica Klepač


The following text sets out to discuss some of the relations between the public/private and the body. In its course, the body as a crucial element in creation of public(ness) is emphasized, specifically for the important role it plays in conflicts that are a necessary product of the public/private dichotomy materialization. The dynamic that is contained within this abstract divide, exemplified with Habermas’ construct of public sphere, creates social spaces articulated as private or public. Their complex intertwinings somehow always includes the body and, more importantly, have effects on bodies. In the heart of that process are the body’s materiality (and for that matter its visibility) as a prime feature of publicness, and its ability to speak by occupying, or appropriating space (Lefebvre) as prime means in public expression of justice/struggle for justice. In that way the body presents the focal point for any change in society to occur in its contradictory role as a danger to the established order (maintained by constant recreation of ordered private and public) and a necessary means of its reproduction (by putting it in a certain place). 


For purposes of explaining this complex process, this text will first critically examine Habermas’ abstract concept of public sphere by concentrating on the implications of its practical realization (or practices of its materialization). These implications are related to public space/social justice relationship, or more specifically, to endangered social justice in contemporary societies on the most basic level: creation of disabled/disabling cities (Gleeson) is diminishing possibilities of publicness that could be realized only as a characteristic of body/places (Nast/Pile).


Directed by that problem, the second part of the text examines the difficulties of the emancipatory process of persons with disabilities.i In arguing that criterion for public justice should be based on the needs of the most marginalized citizens (Mitchell), and by comprehending people with disabilities as a group whose lives are featured within a spectrum of discriminatory practices, the final part of the text presents, instead of a conclusion, certain lessons of the disability movement leading to an idea about basing the struggles for social justice in a contemporary city on the needs of this category of citizens for they could be universalized by acknowledging that body differences are what we all have in common (Davis). In this way, the fight against the discriminatory (ableist) practices of capitalist society that are materialized in geographies of cities present a fight for the right to the city that is the underlying condition of publicness and a crucial element for the materialization of order that is a base for an expanded notion of justice – one that confronts the notion of normality.




According to Lefebvre, society and space are mutually constitutive forces. Social space is produced socially and is socially producing. Society and space are interconnected and both are produced by forces deployed within social practices (Lefebvre, 1991). That process is constant so creational and/or recreational forces of society and space are in constant conflict over their materialization. Implications for public space(s) are that public space(s) can be realized only through social practices that are genuinely public and that society’s inability to create/maintain public spaces where such practices can be performed is an unjust society that bases its reproduction on exclusion, and for that matter, marginalization, discrimination and/or exploitation of certain segments of society.


The “most popular” attempt in the direction of gaining social justice in western societies is “worked out” through Habermas’ concept of public sphere (1989). But, as Demirovic has shown, this concept has a lot of inherent structural problems (2004). The starting point for revealing its “true” nature is the fact that it is saturated by an explanation of the historical context of the separation of state and the society as independent domains of social life (namely state and economy). In this historical context, as a requirement of emerging modern civil society, the public sphere was conceived as mediated space for performing citizens’ role of public criticism and control of the governing structures organized in the form of state. According to this view based on a liberal model, the states’ constitutions guarded society as a field of private autonomy and limited public authority to few functions, and in that way provided for the existence of private (property owning) individuals united in a public body – citizenship – that conveyed the needs of bourgeois society to state; securing general interests depended on the exemption of private individuals’ market activities from social coercion and political pressure in the public sphere by the state’s guaranteeing of freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of free expression of opinion on matters of general interest (Habermas 1989). And the best candidates for the role of citizenry, in which participation is determined by economic activities and at the same time voluntary, were also those who had the freedom of mobility between private and public.

This “kind of public”, dependent on the “division of labor” between state and economy, showed problems of its “functioning” in the course of its historical development that even Habermas acknowledged (1989). With the development of a welfare state, the public sphere becomes a battlefield of different interests of heterogeneous groups that demand the state’s protection of their rights since they cannot be satisfied in other domains (specifically in the market). One consequence of this was a mixture of established categories of private and public that was perceived as a problem of order since the public sphere depends on those opposing categories, and as a result, the influence of the public arena, in itself arranged, became even more prominent in its acting as an ordering mechanism. In theory it is open to everybody that wants to discuss an issue, but in reality it is continually reestablishing itself through power conflicts that intertwine it, conflicts about what is private and what matters could be included in a public discussion, but also about what kinds of actors could participate in discussions, in what way demands can be expressed, and what were appropriate places for these expressions. In reality of multiplied public spaces, the public sphere revealed its impracticability for conducting its main function of reaching the best solutions as the product of reasonable argumentative discussion. Oriented by that ideal(istic) goal, the public sphere has to limit itself and in the process narrows the meaning of publicness. It appears to be only a regulative idea, a virtualization and a norm of a certain kind of society “that is not permitted to achieve real success in the real world” (Demirovic 2004).

This consequence for the meaning of publicness, and for that matter social justice, is somehow lost in Habermas’s optimistic interpretation of the emancipatory process (1989) that is mediated by public sphere’s conflict processing. In his view, the public sphere was a sort of market space where various groups by pressuring the state to protect their rights, gain its political role of inclusion into public in exchange for the state’s regulation of matters that were “private” and, because of that, seemingly exempted from state’s regulatory power (Habermas 1989). The greater significance put on the public in relation to the private had the effect of transforming the public sphere originally conceived as a space of communication free from domination where citizens could reason together about decisions after considering all the arguments about matters of public interest and where public opinion is created. Its practical side showed that it is interested in certain outcomes – those of the governance and order – that in return set the rules of actions in the public sphere dependant on access to information, well informed public of reasonable individuals and a representable social identity. By processing conflict in an arranged manner set by state’s apparatus, the public sphere is shown not to be an arena of transparent communication that assures “publicness”; quite the contrary.


There is a multidimensional nature of public and its opposites that are, in any case, recreating each other in conflictual discursive spaces, but also have their materialized side in their effects. It is possible to make a four domains of private/public continuum display. Its categories should be understood only as an analytical constructs in ideal type manner. Roughly, domains could be represented, started from the most public to the least public, as state, economy, civil society and household. The display would be based on the different meanings that public/privatei can have (that do not necessary coincide).


1) Taking into account the political dimension of governance, the domain of institutionalized political power, public administration and policy is the most general public. It is opposed to economic activities and personal relationships understood as autonomous areas of action exempt from the influence of political power,ii although dependent on constitution protection.

2) However, the public can also be valued according to characteristics of openness, accessibility, visibility and readiness for public expression and inclusion of differences. By contrast, the private is hidden or protected from view; it is personal, and therefore something that does not want to be or cannot be part of the public interestiii but is dependant on the public for its meaning and boundaries.

The purpose of this display was to accentuate that public and private have more than one meaning which are always “stabilized” as symbolic divisions (Demirovic 2004) that, more often then not, limit social practices which take place and shape space. The public sphere construct functions under the bourgeois hegemony and states’ definition of what counts as private and public (Demirovic, 2004). By using Harvey’s concept (2000), the public sphere can be explained as kind of utopia, abstract ideal that in attempts of its fulfillment necessarily and unavoidably materializes certain order that encloses other possible materializations. This means that it creates spaces of injustice for some for it necessarily excludes others. In reality, it is a process that is always reestablishing itself in the conflicts between uneven powers and based on public/private dichotomy set by the state’s interest in order. But, because of the excluding consequences of society’s ordering function, publicness itself becomes a stake in struggles for social justice. The core problem of the public space directs attention to the practical realm where entry points into public can be created.

In sum, ordered and ordering public sphere and publicness are conflicting forces in constant flux over their self-realization, but necessary ingredients of justice formation. In a struggle for democratic rights, the public/private dichotomy presents an imposition of social ordering, public arena presents middle ground where this dichotomy is constantly renegotiated and rematerialized, and demands for its re-establishment always mean a burst of publicness that is by definition unpredictable and in itself dangerous, not ordered and full of contradictions and difference (Mitchell 2003) but also possibilities. Historically, as Mitchell shows, it is realized in settings where demands are shouted, massively supported and where orderings perceived as unjust are (violently) transgressed. This description of publicness, as a characteristic of certain places, is most directly related to the urban environment and presents politics of the streets and also politics of the body. That said, a necessary condition for social justice processes are conflicts that are provoked by transgressions of ordered public’s materializations recognized in public urban places. Contemporary privatization urban processes present a way of establishing order by managing visibility and this is the reason why different kinds of struggles that take place point to the fight for the right to the cityiv as the most important struggle of our time.

Historically, urban places were perceived as genuinely public precisely because of their visible heterogeneity characteristic encouraged by migrations. But the modern city is creating itself as a site that is not interested in cohabitation of differences. It displays an ecology of fear (Davis 2005) and is being shaped by a symbolic economy (Zukin 2005) that gives allowance to certain uses of space. The city is being built in a way that is more conductive for consumption and not habitation, built for certain kinds of people, mainly tourists, shoppers, creative class members, shaped by concerns of safety so that certain activities are carried on uninterrupted, based on a fear of differences conceived as unexpected and dangerous. In sum, it is not created by the people, as Lefebvre would put it (1991). Processes of increasing privatization encouraged by the expansion of the so called mall-effect, on the one hand, and reliance on advanced technology services and Internet, on the other, put public space in danger both as an idea of space where justice can be won and as a practice because of materialized discriminatory practices in city’s geographies. The city is being closed off, divided, arranged and ordered by the state’s reliance on the private. Architectural design shows that optimistic emancipatory progression, which stands as an underlying assumption of the public sphere ideal, sets limitations that make struggles directed by demands for the right to the city necessary.

Lefebvre’s concept of the right to the city makes the relationship between social exclusion, social rights and social justice setting the question of what kind of public spaces are available in contemporary world and what sorts of publics can be formed. These questions can be answered only on the level of social practices – social practices of the living, material bodies in place as productive occupants of space. The right to the city as a demand for appropriating space (not owning), and as a demand for publicness and democratization of space, sets new negotiational processing of the ordering categories and balancing significance between private and public in its multidimensionality. For the purposes of the argument here, the fight for certain places that maintain a possibility of publicness with its prime feature of visible heterogeneity is at its core. And these struggles must be established on a kind of order that is built on the needs of the most marginalized residents – those who have been physically (and symbolically) denied access (and in that way their body’s publicness discourse). 



HEGEMONY OF NORMALCY: materialization of ableism in geographies of the city

As already said in the opening paragraph, society and space are interconnected and both are produced by forces deployed within social practices. And these multidirectional connections are an important source in the pursuit of justice for it is also a product and element of social practice. The body is a productive occupant of space so space is and can only be created by the social practices of lived, material bodies. For that reason, the body is always a danger to the established order at the same time while it is necessary means for its reproduction. There is a material side to mutually constructive process between society and space that includes the body, and in the process body/places “happens”; they are a re-negotiational result of a complex dialectical process of the mutual creation of bodies and places that happens in connecting the “inside” and “outside” of the body (Nast/Pile 1998), between experiences with body and materializations of certain conceptions of body. 

Historically, different medical, scientific and legal discourses about the body and on the body had a double effect that, on one side, created some kind of bodies as a political, social and medical, and for that matter, public issue while discussed bodies were confined to the private and closed off from public, and on the other hand and by the same means, they shaped a privileged private domain for some bodies and provided a framework for the controlled transgression of the private/public divide that gave their publicity voluntary characterization. In other words, excluding some kinds of bodies from public visibility (publicness) by means of transferring them into public issue defined and defended what counted as public while power contained within public continually reestablishes both categories. Consequently, certain culturally devaluated segments were excluded from society as in the case of people with disabilities. In terms of social justice, that process resulted in and was the result of development of disabled society.  

In the history of western societies, one of the most prevalent theoretical approaches to impaired bodies was the medical model that was based on explanations of social differences as reflections of nature and that located sources of disability in the individual’s supposed deficiency and incapacities when compared to “normal” people. That made disability a personal problem, a result of personal tragedy, which needs to be medically treated under professional dominance since the expert knowledge established disability. But it was also seen as a source of individual’s identity to which society reacted with prejudice encouraged by institutionalization of social care, control and policy, that is by practices of managing individual’s deficiencies only to help individual adjustment (Imrie 2001).    

In the background of this conception lays the idea of the normal body. As Davies showed, “normal” is a configuration that arises in a particular historical moment as part of industrialization and its development, as a feature of a certain kind of society since then, served as ideological consolidation of the power of bourgeoisie (2006a). This explanation could be supplemented by historical materialist approaches derived on Marx that see disability as oppression which any society may produce through the social constitution of its natural bases that includes human bodies (Gleeson 1999: 25). As the most influential, mode of production is taken as a historically evolving ensemble of political-economic and cultural relations that has structured the social understanding and experience of body,i in general, and the impaired body, in particular. The human being as a unique incarnation of capacities caught in the social organization of work is being socially calibrated in terms of its capacity for labor. In conclusion, the dynamic of capitalism’s development is explained by its reliance on complex and historically uneven repression of certain forms of embodiment.

This model of explanation (and resulting political activism) is known as the social model for it reveals social constructionism of disability: disability is produced through socialization of impaired embodiment, ascriptions of roles and representations to body types that are physically impaired, that is “they lack part of or all of a limb, or have a defective limb, organism or mechanism of the body” (Oliver, in Gleeson 1999). So this model differentiates between impairment and “disability which is socially imposed state of exclusion or constraint that physically impaired individuals may be forced to endure” (Oliver, in Gleeson 1999); it is socially created for it is not a fact of nature but social identity.

The answer of historical materialist approaches to the question of how this process takes place was broadened by Gleeson in his analytical framework of socio-spatial production of disability,ii in an attempt to escape economic determinism. He accounted wider social context highlighting that disability is characterized by both political economic marginality and by cultural devaluation. Some societies (and in his analysis that goes for capitalistic western societies) oppressively transform impairment into disability through cultural and political-economic practices. So disability is socialized in some societies as each society produces itself socio-spatially. That is possible as a result of the interconnected effect of all types of discrimination: from exploitation and marginalization to powerlessness, cultural imperialism and even violence that pressure people with disabilities and result in unfavorable life circumstances and low living standard for people with disabilities (Gleeson 1999).

In summary, discriminatory practices enforced by (capitalism’s) mechanisms that sought to maximize the body as an economic force by disciplining its heterogeneity and enslaving it to industrial rhythms, result in the systematic undervaluation of people with disabilities’ work potential on competitive commodity labor market leading to their exclusion and work exploitation and lack of money for basic material and cultural resources. Already weakened, possibilities of healthy existence and social participation is additionally hardened, on the one side, by costs related to disability increasing the chance of poverty, and on the other side, by experience of cultural devaluation resulting from the imposition of institutionalized ableist cultural norms that privilege non-impaired forms of embodiment. Because people with disabilities are the ones who do not meet these standards, access to public education has been for many years denied to them and that strengthens dependence on the state and acceptance of institutionalized care in welfare states, in effect enforcing oppressive stereotypes of impairment.  In denying the enriching reality of multiple social identities to disabled people and undermining their self-esteem, prejudice towards corporeal abnormality and economic devalorization of labor power are reinforced ending in society’s abjection of disabled body.

According to authors like Gleeson, these interrelated capitalist social relations that make disablist and a disabling socio-attitudinal value system, create, and are created, in accordance with and in space that is produced by them and that produces them. Socio spatial ways of society’s production expressed in a built environment manifest and reproduce disability. In that process some places could be created as disabling, marginalizing, repressive, exploiting, discriminating places that encourage those kinds of practices against some bodies, and for that matter mark and recreate these kinds of societies. The capitalist city in that framework is socially produced as disablist and proved to be disabling for reinforcing social discrimination against disabled people by its design, employment patterns and distribution of land use. Its geographies are made of ableist lived environments which incorporate and perpetuate physical and social barriers to the participation of disabled persons in everyday life, so it is possible to speak of urban oppression in the contemporary city: it is inaccessible because it does not take into account mobility requirements of disabled peopleiii and so elements of urban infrastructure act as physical barriers by reducing people with disabilities’ chances of finding a job, engaging in political activities and participation in urban life, establishing and maintaining affective ties; in addition, the combined effects of poverty, inaccessibility and inappropriate accommodation act in the direction of decreasing their choices about their preferred living conditions, leading to isolationiv and their socio-spatial exclusion (Gleeson 1999).

As in all theories of the social model approach, the focus is on the obstacles imposed on disabled people which limit their opportunities to participate in the society. Here, disability is a political issue (Imrie/Hall 2001). For society to take responsibility and protect the rights of those discriminated on the basis of their bodies, social actions based on recognizing collective identity (let’s not forget, created by society) must be undertaken. And the turning point in that direction was made by actions of persons with disability who denounce their disability as an oppression that requires social change and, at political level, made it a question of human rights. Their fight against conceptions of the medical model that made them dependant, set political-ethical principles and criteria for emancipation concentrated on inclusion.

Gleeson’s analytical framework that explains disability as produced by mutual enforcement of political economic marginality and cultural devaluation through perpetuating unjust practices in a range of social activities, seems not to give much room for possibilities of change. Still, because his historical and contextual analysis explains the discrimination of certain embodiments at one point in time in western capitalist cities, it indicates the possibilities of alternative developments, or changing the course of the established ones. Obviously, complex processes of disability creation and recreation based on certain correspondence between certain corporealities and certain social realities require political solutions in spheres from redistributive legal rights to cultural evaluation. But there is more to it.

Because of the assumption that justice can only be obtained if individuals and groups are enabled to participate in mainstream social life in a meaningful way, Gleeson created the conception of enabling justice as a new ethical formulation that combines twin imperatives of material redistribution (minimum access to food and shelter) and socio-cultural participation (cultural respect and political inclusion) within a wider objective of enabling people with disabilities to meet their own needs within a network of mutual obligations (as opposed to dependency). And the first step that needs to be taken for all this to happen is highlighted in responsibilities of society for creation of enabling environments.

Although necessary, solutions prompted by this model concentrated on solutions in policy, technical and designer adjustment (accessible buildings) that does not assure emancipatory progression for people with disabilities. The first problem could be exemplified with universal designv movement oriented by the noble idea of “making products, environments and communication systems usable to the greater extent possible by the broadest spectrum of users” (Imrie/Hall 2001). But, in its core, this concept draws attention away from people’s impairment by its deeply apolitical solutions of building environment “accessible to all” in which very often a particular conception of the user emerges as a consumer of designed product (see Imrie/Hall 2001). It is in a way oriented at eradicating impairment, and in that way the physical importance that a body’s shape has in a person’s identity development. It assumes coherent disability identity as result of society’s oppression and the group that carries it in their fight for legal rights that would enable inclusion. Purely technical and procedural responses are not up to that task.

The second problem is related with political activism that this modelvi calls for and that could be related to emancipation politics explained by Habermas. There is a complex interconnection between physiology, culture and wider socio-economic and political relationships that needs to be recognized in order to make transformations in disabled people’s lives and some of them are not possible to be solved by social manipulation (French 1993; quoted in Imrie/Hall 2001), as the social model of disability would presume. Disability is at the same time lived experience that is very often painful and therefore a subjective process in contradiction with the fixed identity category imposed by society. “Body is not a single physical thing but series of attitudes towards it” (Davis 2006b).



INSTEAD OF CONCLUSION: new ethics for just society?

The interrelationship between biology and social values and attitudes is the subject of a new model in approaching disability – the bio-sociological one that leads back to the acknowledgement of the physical body as a determinant in its interactions with the broader environment (Imrie/Hall 2001). In this view, impairment itself becomes a contingent condition dependent on circumstances and what goes “inside” of the body is connected with what goes “outside” of it. In this synthesis of different dimensions of health at the biological, individual and social levels, disability is at the same time a personal and social problem that marks both, social and individual identity and for that matter, it requires coping with prejudice and discrimination on different interrelated levels. As a collective responsibility, it connects care and control based on expert knowledge with rights and choices based on lay experiences enacted in self-help. In sum, the goal of political and policy change could be accomplished only by simultaneous individual and social action resulting in individual adjustment and social change (Imrie/Hall 2001). 


The change of emphasis back to the body had important implications for political action and possibilities of a more just society. On the one side, important aspects of body and its subjectivity proved to be problematic in the creation of identity politics of disabled people, specifically, because they must fight against their individuality rather than establish it. The struggle for civil rights for people with disabilities is completely different from the usual process of political action groups based on race and gender (Siebers 2006).


On the other side, the integrity of identity politics altogether was challenged in the context of postmodernist deconstruction that carries the destabilization of known categories concerning the body. As Davis underlines, a lot of identity groups have reached the limits of their own projects because of the identity group model’s exclusivity. A destabilized identity as such puts on the agenda a search for new ethic of the body. As relatively new justice seeking category strategically shaped as political means, stability of disability category in its developmental progression was heavily drowned on the medical definitions of impairment. But it is also not stable, fixed one, since now impairment is recognized as not a neutral and not an easily understood term whose meaning is dependent on the dialectic of expertise and lay knowledge, medical and self-help. In the situation of an increase in elderly population around the world, and the fact that impairment in many cases is not visible, it takes time to develop (as in cases of chronic disease), can happen in a blink of an eye (as a consequence of accident), but also can be temporary and cured (as medical condition), disability can be comprehended as a kind of ur-identityi that crosses racial, sexual, gender categories (Davidson 2006) and links other identities leaving the ground of identity politics. That aspect is leading Davis is his attempt to conceptualize the new ethic of the body that would work as base of new justice of the dismodern era.


The commonality of bodies within the notion of differenceii is the base of new dismodern eraiii where caring about the bodyiv gives an ethic of liberation by rejecting hypostatization of the normal subject and aims to create a new category based on the partial, incomplete subject whose realization is dependency and interdependency. Different states of being, illness, functional and sensory impairment and mental differences can be considered as important aspects of life experience for all people while disability references disempowering social constructs and ableist structures which inappropriately surrounds everybody in their embodied, psychological everyday world (Butler/Par 1999). “We are all disabled by injustice and oppression of various kinds. We are all nonstandard” (Davis 2006: 241) and for that reason impairment is the rule, dependence is the reality and barrier-free access is the goal.v In other words, dismodernist subject acknowledges the social and technological to arrive at functionality (Davis 2006). Experience of the limitations of our bodies is the only possible universal, and Davis optimistically agrees with Gilroy that aspects of pain, disease, humiliation, grief can all contribute to an abstract sense of human similarity powerful enough to make functional solidarities (in Davis 2006: 242).


In order for future design to be truly inclusive, and for that matter just, designers of space must involve (include) future users in its creation, prioritize their values and views and in this way transform the conception of user presumed in social, institutional and technical relations of design and building processes. And this is an equity and quality issue for everyone; it is not reserved for disabled people (Imrie/Hall 2001), but must take into account the body in all its variety of shapes.


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i  Even though this syntagm has been criticized on the bases that it presents only the humanization of terminology and in this way obscures the real issue of discrimination, my personal experiences with people with disabilities indicate that they prefer it and for this reason it will be used in this text with reference to people that are discriminated on the bases of the difference of their bodies that are signified as disabled.


ii  Thompson differentiates these meanings of public and uses it to describe the complex and shifting relationship between forms of government and the visibility/invisibility of power, relating it to media development (1994). His differentiation is here adjusted to present dimensions of public/private that help distinguishing 4 domains on a continuum ordered by the criteria of “hegemonial” significance of the public.


iii  Most often it is referred to civil society and economy.


iv It is in a most general way related to household.


v Lefebvre's concept connects two citizens' claims: right for the appropriation of space (that means right to use value of a city) and the right for participation in the production of urban space in a political sense (by taking part in decision making process) but also a physical sense (by occupying and shaping parts of the city) (Petrović 2009).


vi In Gleeson’s interpretation of Marx, the organic body (that is first nature) appears as a set of material capacities and limitations (that are potentially infinite in variety of forms). Those capacities are expressed as human being through its participation in the human transformation of nature (that is second nature). As a result of the dialectical historical relationship between the natural world and human society social embodiment is created (1999).


vii He developed his framework by connecting two theoretical achievements: 1. Marx’s distinction of two natures and his conclusion that dynamic of capitalism’s development relies on complex and historically uneven repression of certain forms of embodiment, and 2. Lefebvre’s notion of production of space (1999).


viii Most important urban resources that act as barriers to people with disabilities are architecture with only stairs, public transport modes and public information that does not take into account different bodily abilities.


ix Historically, (welfarism) state support was major cause of socio-spatial isolation by state’s provision of “care” and sheltered employment and its consequences in lack of privacy, individual freedom and separated institutionalization from family and friends. This led to powerlessness of that group and its political invisibility.


x A more complex critique of universal design is given by Davidson. In his analysis he connects universal design with global aspirations of wealthy countries in configuring development around growth rather than social improvement that limits the meaning of access to new markets and economic opportunities (2006).


xi Examples of social actions that different theories of social model recommend would be: a change in terminology which should emphasize human and not the source of discrimination (people with disabilities opposed to disabled people), giving special social rights to socially devaluated groups for improving their social positions (it presents a normalization process), or undermining the authority of medical constructions and its notion that disability is illness that can be cured (leading to abandoning the body’s significance in creation of human society) (Gleeson 1999).


xii As Davidson stresses, a common refrain in disability studies is that disability is the one identity category that, if we live long enough, everyone will inhabit (2006: 118).


xiii “Difference is what we all have in common.”


xiv He developed the notion of dismodernism on the operative notion that postmodernism is still based on a humanistic model, on the critic of “the universal subject of postmodernism” that he perceive as “still whole, independent, unified, self-making and capable” (Davis 2006: 239).


xv Care about the body is one area of a new ethic of dismodernism that subsumes and analyses the other two that are linking the economy with the body: care of the body presents an official stance and requirement for existence in consumer society where the contemporary body can only be completed by means of consumption, and care for the body is related to the disability industry devoted to caring for the human body (Davis 2006).


xvi For this purpose, Davis advocates universal design (2006), but critics against it (see Imrie/Hall 2001) make the conception of inclusive design more appropriate for that task.