Disability and violence: Another call for democratic inclusion and pluralism

Joan Tronto

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Violence as a Serious Problem for Disabled People Consider this example: in 2013, law enforcement officials beat a mentally ill man they were holding in the Beltrami County, Minnesota, jail. County authorities then persuaded a judge to temporarily release him from their custody in order to avoid responsibility for his medical bills. Deputies then put the man in a car and drove him 200 miles and 3½ hours to drop him outside of the emergency room door of a Minneapolis hospital (McEnroe 2014). Violence against disabled people occurs frequently and is often bitterly cruel. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (adopted in 2008) provides in Section 14 that “State parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, (a) Enjoy the right to liberty and security of person; (b) Are not deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily.” This lofty language, which echoes the venerable French Declaration of the Rights of Man by including “security” among natural and imprescriptible rights, differs from the Anglo-American tradition where liberty is rarely discussed in conjunction with “security of person.” Safety is not such an important concept in contemporary political theory, and in a moment when many intrusive acts are carried out in the name of protection (e.g., by the US government to protect the American people), “security of person” hardly seems to be the right concept on which to think productively in a progressive political direction. In this chapter, I suggest that violence against disabled people requires us to rethink the meaning of violence and security from the standpoint of democratic citizens in pluralistic societies. Many recent essays about the relationship of disabilities to political theory have begun from a concept or theoretical argument that is important to contemporary thought to show how that concept or argument is limited by not considering it from the standpoint of disability. The approach of this chapter is a bit different. Violence against disabled people is real. Indeed, violence itself (whether it is organized by states, is part of civil conflict, or is a result of “criminal” activity or the vicissitudes of life) often creates disability among its victims.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDisability and Political Theory
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781316694053
ISBN (Print)9781107165694
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2016.


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