Saturday, March 8, 2008


I saw this word in a Newsweek article talking about how people in an "in group" don't ascribe secondary emotions to people in an "out group".  It was being discussed in the context of the behavior of the Democratic  race and how people supporting each of the two remaining candidates were "infrahumanizing" each other. 

So I went googling to see if there were links relating to disability and infrahumanization since there are times I've noticed this kind of behavior in that context.  I didn't find much, except the study that was quoted in about every blog post that used the word infrahumanization. 

Of course seeing other human beings as less than,  as not having (or being incapable of having) secondary emotions objectifies them, but also rationalizes saying or doing things that would not be okay for members of the in group. 

I was reading the book The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal  by Jonathan Mooney yesterday, which I'm going to be reviewing. In it, the author , who attended special ed classes as a child, talks about how teachers used to tell him "Try to act normal, okay?" over and over again. And when he went to speak at a special ed class years later as an adult college grad, the teacher said this to the class. 

Imagine talking to a member of the "in group" this way. "Try to act normal, okay?" I can think of a few more phrases that are used along these lines, words that oppress. 

"Don't you know that's socially inappropriate behavior?" 
"I know you'd like to have that opportunity, but that's part of being disabled."
"You can't expect other people to accommodate that just because you're disabled."

And on and on, words that hurt, things that get said that would not be said to members of an in group, but that are okay to say to members of an out group because they are, it is assumed, different. 

Anyhow, it was an interesting political commentary that I read. But  that's not really what concerns me about infrahumanization. 

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