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Constructing the (M)other

Narratives of Disability, Motherhood, and the Politics of «Normal»


Edited By Priya Lalvani

Constructing the (M)other is a collection of personal narratives about motherhood in the context of a society in which disability holds a stigmatized position. From multiple vantage points, these autoethnographies reveal how ableist beliefs about disability are institutionally upheld and reified. Collectively they seek to call attention to a patriarchal surveillance of mothering, challenge the trope of the good mother, and dismantle the constructed hierarchy of acceptable children. The stories contained in this volume are counter-narratives of resistance—they are the devices through which mothers push back. Rejecting notions of the otherness of their children, in these essays, mothers negotiate their identities and claim access to the category of normative motherhood. Readers are likely to experience dissonance, have their assumptions about disability challenged, and find their parameters of normalcy transformed.

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Chapter Two: West Side Story (Down Under) (Bernadette Macartney)


chapter 2

West Side Story (Down Under)

Bernadette Macartney


West Side Story (Down Under) is a narrative of my personal experiences, scripted and interpreted in the form of a two-act play. Set in Aotearoa New Zealand, the play is about my daughter, Maggie Rose’s desire to participate and perform in the musicals at her high school, and my attempts to navigate access to the performing arts for her over multiple years, leading up to the high school’s performance of West Side Story.

The classic musical, West Side Story is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. Written and set in late 1950s New York, it is a story of two rival gangs fighting for supremacy over the city streets. Like the original, my play West Side Story (Down Under) exposes the micro-politics and mechanics of power that divide and exclude (Foucault, 1977, 1980, 1982). It offers insights into how disablist values, beliefs, relationships, and structures combine within localised contexts and situations to (re)create exclusion.

My experiences and identity as a mother, teacher, teacher educator, disability studies in education (DSE) scholar, and disability rights activist have made me observant about the ways that different constructions of disability create or remove barriers to developing a positive identity, participating, and succeeding. In this chapter, taking creative license, I borrow some conventions from theatre and performance in order to recount my story in the form of a play’s script....

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