Social representations of the body with disabilities have for centuries been associated with the idea of illness, lack, or abnormality. The body with disabilities has been seen as a ‘monstrum’, as a malformed body, the expression of a sin and a fault; as a sick body to be rehabilitated, as an infantile body. This way of representing the ‘disabled body‘ ended up orienting both attitudes and the social treatment of disabled people, through concealment, segregation, confinement, reification within domestic or institutional contexts. At most, the disabled body is object of pietistic glances, between disturbance and curiosity. For some years now, however, we have been witnessing a redefinition of what is considered a body worthy of being shown on the public stage: models with prosthesis win beauty contests; athletes show with ease their prosthesis; war wounded pose on calendars; many films and tv series have non-standard or non-conventional protagonists, far from the western cultural norms. Is this an important cultural shift or a form of defense by the social system which incorporates the otherness in order to normalize it? This paper intends to focus attention around the social representations of disability according to the theoretical and interpretative perspective of Disability Studies. The results of this research conducted with a specific survey tool will be presented, on the basis of a sample of male and female secondary school students. The purpose of the survey is to investigate the social representations of disability held by young people, paying particular attention to the sense of justice and fairness, to dichotomous ideas of independence/dependence, care/assistance, the claim of rights/sense of pity, legitimate/illegitimate body.
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