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Auerbach Lecture | 10.06.2024 | 18 Uhr

Lasha Matiashvili (Philosophy, Tbilisi): Transformative Experience of Disability and Rediscovery of the Resonant Lifeworld


Disability is a multifaceted concept that is challenging to define from a single disciplinary perspective. It has been examined from social, cultural, political, legal, psychological, and medical perspectives. However, two dominant models stand out: the social and medical models of disability (Grue 2015). There exists a dichotomous relationship between these two models. The social model seeks to comprehend how individuals with disabilities may be subjected to stigmatization, marginalization, and exclusion (Beck 2008). On the other hand, the medical model of disability aims to ‘fix’ and ‘normalize’ bodies (Schillmeier 2010), creating false binaries such as enabled/disabled, healthy/pathological, normal/abnormal. These binaries subsequently influence broader social and political frameworks of disability. The social model of disability aims to understand socially determined reasons behind what Drew Leder refers to as the ‘absent’ or ‘dys-appeared’ body. In contrast, the medical model overlooks embodied lived-experience and perceives the body as a dysfunctional object.

Contrary to both dominant models, we would like to endorse a phenomenological account of disability. By focusing on the structure of lived experience and utilizing phenomenological concepts and methods, we aim to explore the transformative experiences of disability. In short, this approach ultimately seeks to restore the lost resonance in the lifeworld. Transformative experience might be conceived of in terms of ontological, epistemic, and embodied modification of one’s being in the lifeworld. In disability an ontological structure of the lifeworld changes as well as the embodied being in the world. When epistemic transformation happens, one gains the knowledge about something, which otherwise could not be accessible, and, therefore, the person understands “what it is likeness of an experience”, which lies at the heart of phenomenological philosophy.

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