Achieving a place: a communography of disabled postgraduates : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Social Anthropology at Massey University, Albany campus, New Zealand
This study is social anthropological insider research of disabled postgraduates, students and staff in tertiary educational institutions. This is also a study of enabling conditions for inclusion; and ways the participants build relationships between themselves and the wider community. I consider my participants as kin. This was a joint venture - we were related not by blood, but by the very fact that we share in communities of disabled people. We are connected even if not always interacting with each other; we seldom moved in the same circles on a day-to-day basis.
These are stories of adversity, where the participants have developed successful coping strategies and made achievements, not despite their being ?othered?, but by living with and acknowledging their differences. These are reflections on our society where we compete in complex emotional relationships within employment and all other social institutions. The university seemed to be a psychologically safer setting probably because it is a place for higher learning and therefore all the people had a more highly developed consciousness.
Even though in some cases there were some wider macro barriers, on the whole, the participants‘ experience was positive.
We found what we as joint participants shared in that feeling of disability was just the same as the feeling of communitas as students. Thinking about communitas (Turner, 1967), the Latin for community, convinced me that community was the central theme of this whole thesis. There are communities of practice in all organisations and institutions in society and they are used by
the participants in this study not only in developing strategies for inclusion, but also for learning. Because the university is a series of communities of practice a major theorist for this study is Vygotsky and his concept of a culture of learning. We are also indebted to the social anthropologist Lave and her colleagues for bringing his ideas to Western academia.