"Look at Me:" Portraiture and Agency

Janet S. Sauer


Keywords: disability, methodology, portraiture, social justice, special education 

Historically, the dominant research paradigms involving the study of people with disabilities involved experimentally designed studies or other medically orientated approaches. This paper examines portraiture as a form of qualitative inquiry offering emancipatory possibilities for children with significant disabilities and transformative positive reinterpretations of disability as a social construct for their teachers and other people in their lives.  Three narrative portraits of young people with disabilities were created based on a year-long portraiture study involving the collection of observational data, informal interviews, artifacts, and discourse analysis to capture the “essence” of their humanness.  Through an examination of this portrait study and others from across the humanities, this paper provides examples where the “subjects” asserted themselves in ways akin to Giroux’s agency (1987) suggesting portraiture might provide a unique and credible avenue to respectfully study and learn more about people with disabilities too often left on the fringe of society. 


disability; methodology; portraiture; social justice; special education

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v32i4.1736

Copyright (c) 2012 Janet S. Sauer

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

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