Becoming the ‘Other’ A qualitative study of power, masculinities and disabilities in the lives of young drivers after road traffic accidents
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AbstractThis study is qualitative, positioned in the interdisciplinary research field of disability studies, and draws on the theoretical insights of critical feminist studies. The fieldwork consisted of qualitative interviews with and participant observation of 14 young adults who had sustained injuries in road traffic accidents in which they had been drivers. The thesis investigates three hegemonic discourses that this group encountered after their accidents. The first article identifies and investigates a discourse that we have termed ‘the language of percentages’. This term refers to the use of numbers and percentages in measurements and tests that are part of standard rehabilitation procedures. We find that this discourse might be understood to construct disability as a percentage of a ‘complete’ normative ideal, or one hundred per cent. The reality of this construct leaked into the social lives of the study participants who felt that they ‘became’ incomplete. The second article examines one hegemonic cultural repertoire that non-disabled people draw on in encounters with unusual bodies. We find that when a biomedical framing is the main or only reference for non-disabled people in encounters with disabled people, ‘ableism’ is produced and maintained by ignorance. In this thesis, the discourse that constitutes that which is culturally known and not known about disability is termed ‘non-disabled ignorance’. The third article describes and analyses young men’s driving practices, views on safety and construction of their identities as (disabled) men in relation to masculinity ideals. We find that, overall, the male participants rely heavily on hegemonic masculinity ideals. While they tend to continue their deviant driving practices, the accident represents a turning point in which they tend to reformulate their ideals towards an increased care for others and an incorporation of safety assessments that we term their ‘traffic safety agency’. We suggest that recognising and stimulating young men’s caring capacity holds the potential for change towards safe(er) driving. We argue that there might be a platform for dialogue and a potential for successful integration of traffic injury prevention practices if young men’s internal logic is recognised and their caring capacity is taken into account as resources and understood on emic terms by traffic injury prevention experts. I argue that the discourses explored in the articles (i.e. ‘the language of percentages’, ‘non-disabled ignorance’ and the tendency of traffic injury prevention experts to conceptualise young, male drivers as problems) may all be recognised as processes in which the study participants are constructed, and sometimes construct themselves, as ‘Other’ in relation to the ‘Self’. As a consequence of this discursive ‘Othering’, ‘ableistic’ notions about unusual bodies are reproduced culturally, and the safety agency of young, male drivers remains (relatively) unrecognised by traffic injury prevention experts. In conclusion, I argue that strategies of resistance, interpreting the world view of the ‘Other’ on their own terms and introducing alternative conceptual frameworks might work to destabilise the ‘Othering’ that occurs in these hegemonic discourses. Thus, such measures might influence our social realities in terms of challenging ‘ableism’, acknowledging young men’s ongoing negotiations of safety in their driving practices, and potentially joining them in this transformative work.
List of papers
|Paper I: Rannveig Svendby, Grace Inga Romsland & Kåre Moen (2017) The language of percentages: ranking bodies, shaping realities, and limiting opportunities, Disability and Rehabilitation, 41:4, 382-388, DOI: 10.1080/09638288.2017.1390789. The paper is not available in the thesis due to publisher restrictions. The article is available at https://doi.org/10.1080/09638288.2017.1390789|
|Paper II: Svendby, R., Romsland, G.I. and Moen, K., 2018. Non-disabled Ableism: An Autoethnography of Cultural Encounters between a Non-disabled Researcher and Disabled People in the Field. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 20(1), pp.219–227. DOI: 10.16993/sjdr.6. The article is included in the thesis. Also available at: https://doi.org/10.16993/sjdr.6|
|Paper III: Change and Continuation: Masculinity, Driving, and Disability in the Lives of “Young Problem Drivers” in the Aftermath of Severe Road Traffic Accidents. R. Svendby, U.B. Lilleaas. NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 2019. DOI: 10.1080/08038740.2019.1602563 The paper is not available in the thesis due to publisher restrictions. The article is available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/08038740.2019.1602563|