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Both Sides of the Table

Autoethnographies of Educators Learning and Teaching With/In [Dis]ability


Philip Smith

Both Sides of the Table is a set of evocative, heartfelt, personal, and revealing stories, told by educators about how their experiences with disability, personally and in the lives of family members, has affected their understanding of disability. It uses disability studies and critical theory lenses to understand the autoethnographies of teachers and their personal relationships with disability. The book takes a beginning look at the meaning of autoethnography as a method of inquiry, as well as how it has been (and will be) applied to exploring disability and the role of education in creating and sustaining it. The title refers to the context in which educators find themselves in Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings for students with disabilities in schools. There, educators often sit on the other side of the table from people with disabilities, their families, and their allies. In these chapters, the authors assume roles that place them, literally, on both sides of IEP tables. They inscribe new meanings – of relationships, of disability, of schools, of what it means to be an educator and a learner. It is a proposal (or perhaps a gentle manifesto) for what research, education, disability, and a utopian revolutionary politics of social transformation could and should look like.
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Chapter 6: I Am Not of This World, and Yet I Am in It: A Daughter’s/Disability-Studies-in-Education Alien’s Log of a Journey Through Hell, by Alicia Broderick


I am having issues with figure/ground. There is only profound alienation the likes of which I have never before experienced—and I had previously considered myself intimately familiar with alienation. I am the black sheep, the leftist, atheist daughter who somehow was spawned of this conservative, Catholic family. I am the outlier, the outsider, the prodigal, the alien. It is my role within the family, and it is familiar, if not yet welcome or comfortable, to me. I am not myself here; within this cultural geographic space I exist only as the caricature they believe me to be. Which is to say that I do not exist. I read the paper, see the billboards, watch the television, find it surreal, dislocated, ethereal, imaginary. I am surrounded by Fox News, country music, casual racism and homophobia, and more references to god and guns every day than I would ordinarily encounter in a week or a month. I am not of this world, and yet I am in it, invisible, alienated, nonexistent. The ICU adds an additional layer of alienation to this experience. I am already alien outside the hospital doors; that alienation exponentially increases inside them. Reality is shifting, elusive, unstable. And hostile to my very existence.

You see, I am a disability studies scholar. A what? That doesn’t exist ← 121 | 122 → here. It causes me to see, hear, experience most of what happens to me with an additional layer of horror that most of the people around me...

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