I am currently a Lecturer in Education and Disability Studies at Liverpool Hope University, in the UK.
My research is located primarily in disability studies, feminist theory and education, it also draws from critical and cultural studies. As such, my work is very interdisciplinary and is concerned primarily with issues of social justice and social change.
I came to Liverpool Hope after concluding my PhD research at Lancaster University. In my thesis the focus of inquiry was the daily experiences of people living with a chronic illness (namely fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis and multiple sclerosis) in England and Portugal.
Conceptualizing chronic illness as a category of impairment and employing the use of narrative methods, which involved soliciting first-person accounts, the research focuses mainly on determining the role of ableism and disablism in people’s lives – how society and culture influence standards of wellbeing, access and accommodation for people living with chronic illnesses – as well as exploring the lay knowledges and strategies people develop with and through their experience of impairment, which are often not recognized by established systems of knowledge such as biomedicine.
The research concludes that people with chronic illnesses experience complex forms of ableism and disablism that shape all aspects of their lives, furthermore, the effects of disablism are onerous, widespread and compound thus they directly influence people’s standards of wellbeing, despite the effects of illness. The transnational aspect of the research allowed me to compare two contrasting disability policy contexts and their influence on the lives of people living with a chronic illness. In England it is sometimes possible, although difficult, to obtain social support, benefits and reasonable adjustments, while in Portugal, where an individual and medical model is prevalent, scarce access to benefits and difficulty in obtaining reasonable adjustments places people in even more precarious situations. Whilst embodied reality can be difficult for participants, many report an active re-engagement with their bodies as well as learning new things and strategies. This can be conceptualized as a kind of subjugated knowledge since disabled people’s knowledges of the body are often not considered relevant or normative by others. The research also engages with recent theoretical debates in cultural studies and critical disability studies regarding the role of normalcy and what I have termed normative corporality. Since people living with chronic illnesses are not always identified by others as disabled and can inhabit “in-between” spaces, the research has allowed me to contribute to these debates by illuminating how normalcy is not “natural” but, rather, artificially constructed and actively enforced and imposed by ableist practices and cultural norms that the research questions and deconstructs.
Equally important in this project was to consider how feminist theory and disability studies can influence the ways we conceptualize notions of health and illness. How we think about illness and the role of illness, in particular, deeply affects the value we give to the lives of people who are permanently ill and the resources we make available to them. The research questions traditional approaches to illness and articulates possible alternatives.
Email: ana [at] anabeonline.com