by Rayna Rapp

About Rayna Rapp

Rayna Rapp is Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Anthropology at New York University. She is the author of the award-winning book Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America (1999) and coeditor, with Faye Ginsburg, of Conceiving the New World Order (1995), as well as numerous articles and reviews. Her current research with Faye Ginsberg focuses on cultural innovation in special education in New York City.


The word “family” is highly charged in disability studies. On the one hand, families are seen as the site of nurturance, narrative, and theory building for those with disabilities (Bérubé 1996; Davis 2000a; Grinker 2007; Kittay 1999). On the other, families are recognized as potential sites of repression, rejection, and infantilization. Whether seen positively or negatively, the term “family” is often taken for granted as a preordained, self-sufficient unit in discussions of family life influenced by disability. In the American context, the ideal of family generally involves parent-child relations in a classic heterosexual, nuclear, able-bodied household despite the coexistence of many other forms of family organization that incorporate members with disabilities: single parents, same-sex unions, extended family formations, and “families we choose.”