Normalcy, Bio-Politics and Disability: Some Remarks on the German Disability Discourse

Anne Waldschmidt


In Germany the perspectives of disabled people have a special weight in the public discourse on new genetics. This paper concentrates on the critique developed by activists of the disability rights movement. It focuses on the discourse's patterns and regularities which show a rough historical structure, and on the main and most influential arguments. As a first step, a theoretical framework is sketched. It draws on the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault as well as that of German literary scientist Jürgen Link. The concepts of "governmentality," "bio-power," and "normalism" help to understand that normalcy and eugenics are modern apparatuses of power/knowledge. In analyzing the discursive patterns of the German disability discourse on bioethics, in particular the "historical argument" and the "feminist argument," it can be shown that the disability rights discourse still considers power mainly as a disciplining, repressive force. The paper concludes with a plead for a renewal of the critique in order to better understand the bio-political matrix of neoliberal society which not only provides risk-oriented programs and policies, but also governs our subjective ways of thinking.

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2006 Anne Waldschmidt

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

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