Becoming Disabled: Knowledge and Truth


  • Nili Broyer The Alin Beit Noam Institute for Disability Studies


The founding premise of the field of Disability Studies, from which this article was written, is that Disability is a social and cultural construction, always existing within a context. Based on personal narratives, presented as eyewitness testimony, the writer attempts to reconstruct and transcribe moments in which her body came to be termed “different” and so, “disabled”.

Removing a subject from the norm and casting her/him in the role of difference requires the building of, and reliance upon, structures of knowledge. The first section of this article presents a theoretical distinction among three types of knowledge: (1.) common knowledge, (2.) professional knowledge and (3.) first person knowledge. The encounter with each of these types of knowledge tends to create a different label by which the subject is defined and understood.

The second part of the article focuses on the specific, particularly tense and loaded arena, in which the body is read by the State. Israel’s Medical Committee is the meeting ground upon which the State aims to determine the categorical-bureaucratic identity of a given citizen as different, on the basis of her/his body. Absurdly, it is specifically in this institutional arena that the paradigm of truth is overturned, and we become aware of the delicate tapestry-work by which culture produces body.