Putting down verbal and cognitive weaponry: the need for 'experimental-relational spaces of encounter' between people with and without severe intellectual disabilities

Gustaaf Bos, Tineke Abma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Social inclusion policies often assume that community integration is beneficial for all people with disabilities. Little is known about what actually happens in encounters between people with and without severe intellectual disabilities in the public space. Based on social-constructionist and responsive-phenomenological insights, we performed participant observation, semi-structured interviews and
researcher reflexivity to study encounters between Harry (pseudonym), a man with a severe intellectual disability, his neighbours, fellow service-users, support professionals, and the first author. A thinking-with-theory strategy was adopted
to interpret and deepen observations and reflections. We argue for more ‘experimental-relational spaces of encounter’ between people with and without severe intellectual disabilities, wherein the latter put down their verbal and cognitive weaponry. This proved to be more appropriate for spending ‘quality time’ with Harry then typical satisfactory neighbourhood interactions – often embedded in verbality, habits, routines and rationalizations that do not reflect the
existence of people with severe intellectual disabilities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDisability & Society
Early online date10 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Encounter
  • relational otherness
  • verbality
  • cognition
  • mainstream
  • margins
  • researcher reflexivity

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