The field of disability studies (DS) is both critical and productive: disability theorists critique definitions and practices that devalue disability, and they are also committed to the development of a positive disability culture, identity, and politics. These two facets of DS can be seen in the complex relationship between disability and institutions. Critical work in the field has been devoted to examining the centuries-long practice of institutionalizing people with disabilities and exposing the dehumanizing consequences of segregation and marginalization. Yet DS has also produced alternative histories, or counter-stories, that reveal forms of resistance to these institutions and trace the development of institutional structures that support disability rights and empower people with disabilities.

Because “institution” is such a broad term, it is helpful to distinguish among its various meanings. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an institution as “an establishment, organization, or association, instituted for the promotion of some object, esp. one …

This essay may be found on page 109 of the printed volume.

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