Historicizing the art of belonging. Disability, activism and social science in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands since the 1960s

Friday, November 1, 2013
First author:
Paul.W. van Trigt
Social Network & Public Policy

History Department, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

All authors:

Paul W. van Trigt

Public Policy & Rigths
Comparative history, Social Movements


An important way to practice the art of belonging is to form disability groups. Firstly, because belonging is always part of the formation of groups. Secondly, when groups strive for emancipation, they often strive for belonging to another group e.g. ‘normal’ citizens, or acceptation by the majority group. In this respect, there are striking differences in the way people with disabilities from different countries practice the art of belonging in the formation of disability groups, which raises the question how the formation of disability groups is determined by national contexts.


In my paper I will answer this question by a historical comparison of disability groups in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. I will historicize concepts like the ‘social model’, ‘new social movements’ and ‘human rights’ such as used in the Anglo-Saxon context. Instead of using these concepts for my analysis I investigate how and why these concepts were used (or not) in the formation of disability groups.


By historicizing concepts and taking into account national contexts my paper will lead to a better understanding of (the history) of disability groups and the contextual dimensions of the art of belonging. The differences between disability groups in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands are explained by differences in welfare state arrangements and political culture.


In my paper I will argue we need a new approach to study disability groups beyond the Anglo-Saxon perspective on disability groups, as is often dominant in the field of Disability Studies/ History, because we can not really understand disability groups in other spatial contexts as we see them as lagging behind exemplary groups in Anglo-Saxon countries.