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Tragic but brave or just crips with chips? Songs and their lyrics in the Disability Arts Movement in Britain

By Colin Cameron


Disability culture is a site within which social and positional identities are struggled for and dominant discourses rejected; in which mainstream representations of people with impairments – as victims of personal tragedy – are held to the light and revealed as hegemonic constructions within a disabling society. Drawing upon styles that range from jazz, blues and folk to reggae, performance poetry and punk, disabled singers and bands in the Disability Arts Movement in Britain have been central to the development of an affirmative disability discourse rooted in ideas of pride, anger and strength. Examining lyrics by Johnny Crescendo, Ian Stanton and the Fugertivs – performers emerging as part of this movement in the 1980s and 1990s – this article considers the dark humour which runs through much of this work. It is suggested that these lyrics' observational reflections on everyday experiences of being oppressed as disabled people have been overlooked within critical disability studies to date, but are important in developing an understanding of positive disability identity as a tool available to disabled people in order to make sense of, and express themselves within, the world in which they find themselves

Year: 2009
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