"I Just Absolutely Loved What I Did": The Rhetorical Construction of a Disabled Identity

Yvonne Stephens


Siebers (2008) calls for a move beyond the social model of disability toward a "theory of complex embodiment" that allows for acknowledgment of the "negative" aspects of embodied disability and, in turn, allows for the adoption of a disabled identity. I answer Siebers' call by analyzing the discourse of one disabled individual—my father, a man with multiple sclerosis—and discussing his complex identity construction as a disabled person who sees the disability as a source of strength and knowledge as well as a source of suffering. Returning to that on which the social model is built—rhetoric—I argue that his rhetorical construction of a disabled identity is necessary and provides evidence for the need to step beyond the social model as currently conceived.


Disability; discourse analysis; identity; multiple sclerosis; rhetoric; social model; theory of complex embodiment

Full Text:


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v31i3.1679

Copyright (c) 2011 Yvonne Stephens

Volume 1 through Volume 20, no. 3 of Disability Studies Quarterly is archived on the Knowledge Bank site; Volume 20, no. 4 through the present can be found on this site under Archives.

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

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact libkbhelp@lists.osu.edu.

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)