I just wondered if I can do things on my own and don't have nobody tell me what I can and cannot do. I know better: Letters to the world from inside of a segregated sheltered workshop


The segregation and exploitation of people labeled as intellectually disabled is so thorough that it is rarely academically investigated through the lens of structural violence. This article interrogates the cultural practices and dynamics that are used to oppress based on categories related to intellectual capacity. With the aim of resisting reinforcing the epistemological violence that has silenced the voices and experiences of those grappling under these circumstances of structural violence,  the author of the article explores an interrelational method. The words of a woman from within a sheltered workshop (factory like spaces of exclusion claiming to support people with disabilities) are intertwined with the scholar activist stance of the author to explore moral exclusion and structural violence. Along with the excavation of these abusive practices, this article inspired by the insights contained in the letters from the author within the sheltered workshop, envisions desire as a form of resistence and subjects as agents. Rather than seeking conclusions from the themes of resistence elevated from the analysis of the letters, uncomfortable questions are generated about power and academic exploitation in the name of activism.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i24212113v2i2p127

Keywords: structural violence; moral exclusion; intellectual disability; narrative analysis


Blanchard, R., Watson, M. S., Choy, A., Dickey, R., Klassen, P., Kuban, M., & Ferren, D. J. (1999). Pedophiles: Mental retardation, maternal age, and sexual orientation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 28(2), 111-127.

Boer, D. P., Tough, S., & Haaven, J. (2004). Assessment of risk manageability of intellectually disabled sex offenders. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 17(4), 275-283. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3148.2004.00214.x

Carey, A. C. (2009). On the margins of citizenship: Intellectual disability and civil rights in twentieth-century America. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Chase, S. E. (2003). Learning to listen: Narrative principles in a qualitative research methods course. In R. Josselson, A. Lieblich & D.P. McAdams (Eds.), The narrative study of lives (pp. 79-99). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Edgerton, R. B. (1963). A patient elite: Ethnography in a hospital for the mentally retarded. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 68(3), 372-385.

Enewsletters (2012). Archived in Author’s email box and retrievable from http://web.archive.org/web/20120328170810/http://www.growinginalldirections.org/newsletter-archive/

Enns, C. J. (2001). In Long-Term Care (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk3/ftp04/MQ57536.pdf

Fine, M., & Asch, A. (1988). Disability beyond stigma: Social interaction, discrimination, and activism. Journal of Social Issues, 44(1), 3-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1988.tb02045.x

Fraser, N. (1995). From redistribution to recognition? Dilemmas of justice in a'post- socialist'age. New Left Review, 1/212.

Garland-Thomson, R. (2005). Feminist disability studies. Signs, 30(2), 1557-1587. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/423352

Gergen, K. J. (2009). Relational being: Beyond self and community. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Gill, M. C. (2015). Already doing it: Intellectual disability and sexual agency. Minneapolis, MN; University of Minnesota Press.

Goodley, D., & Runswick-Cole, K. (2011). The violence of disablism. Sociology of Health & Illness, 33(4), 602-617. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01302.x

Josselson, R. (1995). Imagining the real: Empathy, narrative, and the dialogic self. In R. Josselson & A. Lieblich (Eds,), Interpreting experience: The narrative study of lives (pp. 24-44). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Josselson, R. (2004). The hermeneutics of faith and the hermeneutics of suspicion. Narrative Inquiry, 14(1), 1-28. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/ni.14.1.01jos

Josselson, R. (2011). "Bet you think this song is about you": Whose narrative is it in narrative research? Narrative Works, 1(1), 33-51.

Klotz, J. (2004). Sociocultural study of intellectual disability: Moving beyond labelling and social constructionist perspectives. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 32(2), 93-104. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3156.2004.00285.x

Kulick, D., & Rydström, J. (2015). Loneliness and its opposite: Sex, disability, and the ethics of engagement. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

McMahan, J. (2009). The radically cognitively limited. In K. Brownlee & A. Cureton (Eds.), Disability and disadvantage (pp. 240-259). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

McRuer, R., & Mollow, A. (2012). Sex and disability. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Opotow, S. (1990). Moral exclusion and injustice: An introduction. Journal of Social Issues, 46(1), 1-20.

Opotow, S., Gerson, J., & Woodside, S. (2005). From moral exclusion to moral inclusion: Theory for teaching peace. Theory into Practice, 44(4), 303-318. doi:1207/s15430421tip4404_4

Ouellette, S. C. (2008). Notes for a critical personality psychology: Making room under the critical psychology umbrella. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2(1), 1-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2007.00039.x

Pillow, W. (2003). Confession, catharsis, or cure? Rethinking the uses of reflexivity as methodological power in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 16(2), 175-196. doi: 10.1080/0951839032000060635

Pratt, M. L. (1991). Arts of the contact zone. Profession, 91, 33-40. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25595469

Salgado, J., & Clegg, J. W. (2011). Dialogism and the psyche: Bakhtin and contemporary psychology. Culture & Psychology, 17(4), 421-440. doi: 10.1177/1354067X11418545

Servais, L. (2006). Sexual health care in persons with intellectual disabilities. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 12(1), 48-56. doi: 10.1002/mrdd.20093

Thomas, A. (2000). Stability of Tringo's hierarchy of preference toward disability groups: 30 years later. Psychological Reports, 86(3c), 1155-1156. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.2466/PR0.86.3.1155-1156

Thornberry, C., & Olson, K. (2005). The abuse of individuals with developmental disabilities. Developmental Disabilities Bulletin, 33(1), 1-19.

Toomey, J. F. (1993). Final report of the Bawnmore Personal Development Programme: Staff attitudes and sexuality programme development in an Irish service organisation for people with mental handicap. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 14(2), 129-144. doi: doi:10.1016/0891-4222(93)90016-D

Trudel, G., & Desjardins, G. (1992). Staff reactions toward the sexual behaviors of people living in institutional settings. Sexuality and Disability, 10(3), 173-188. doi:10.1007/BF01102283

Weis, L., & Fine, M. (2012). Critical bifocality and circuits of privilege: Expanding critical ethnographic theory and design. Harvard Educational Review, 82(2), 173-201. doi: 10.17763/haer.82.2.v1jx34n441532242

Winges-Yanez, N. (2014). Why all the talk about sex? An authoethnography identifying the troubling discourse of sexuality and intellectual disability. Sexuality and Disability, 32(1), 107-116. doi:10.1007/s11195-013-9331-7

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.