Tag Archives: structural disablism

Homo sacer and zones of exception: Metaphors for the contemporary experience of disablism? (paper, 2007)

Reeve, D. (2007) ‘Homo sacer and zones of exception: Metaphors for the contemporary experience of disablism?’, paper presented at Nordic Network on Disability Research, Göteborg, Sweden, 10-12 May.


Agamben, as part of his analysis of contemporary Western politics, describes how the figure of homo sacer can be considered to be an outlaw or bandit; someone who is not simply outside the law and indifferent to it, but who has instead been abandoned by the law.

Whereas Foucauldian approaches have been useful in understanding the ways in which technologies of power differentiate the abnormal from the normal, Agamben instead focuses on how the suspension of law can create zones of exception where homo sacer can be found.

In this exploratory paper I will draw on narratives of disability experiences to present some initial ideas about how homo sacer and zones of exception can be used, on a less grand scale, to understand the experience of structural and psycho-emotional disablism.

I will show how implementations of the Disability Discrimination Act in the UK can lead to spatial zones of exception where disabled people find themselves both included and excluded at the same time.

Finally I will introduce the concept of psychic zones of exception created by the suspension of behavioural norms or ‘internal laws’ to discuss psycho-emotional disablism occurring within interpersonal interactions.