Winance: Crossing Actor-Network Theory and the Ethics of Care

Myriam Winance (INSERM, CERMES3, Villejuif)



Konstanz 10/12/2020

Actor-network theory has contributed to renew the analysis of dis/abilities. It has shown that abilities and disabilities were not individual characteristics, but emergent proprieties of heterogeneous networks (López and Domènech, 2008 ; Moser, 1999 ; Winance, 2006). Then, in this approach, dis/abilities refer to specific orderings of materialities. Some orderings make action possible, other not. “Disability is a matter of specificity; of the specific situations that either disable or enable us” (Moser, 2000, p. 224). Analysing wheelchair’s experiences, I have shown that dis/abilities were not only “a matter of speficity” but also “a matter of embodiement”. The dis/abilities to act does not only result from the distribution of action to human and non-human entities, but are also shaped through a process of mutual adjustment between the person, her/his body and her/his environment. However, none of these analyses can explain the production of differences between the persons. Of course, we are all made dis/abled specifically and in situation, but then how to explain that some of us do feel disabled and other able ? In my presentation, crossing actor-network theory and the ethics of care, I will propose a tentative to analyse the emergence of relational differences that distinguish people. My analysis is based on the study of a corpus of published stories of parents of children with multiple and profound disabilities. I will show that relational differences are plural and does not distributed into binaries categories (disabled / able), but take positive or negative values, depending on the situations. Then, I will show that dis/abilities are not only situated and distributed specificities, but also relational differences that qualified or disqualified the person.
López, Daniel , and Miquel  Domènech. 2008. "Embodying Autonomy in a Home Telecare Service." The Sociological Review 56(2_suppl):181-195.
Moser, Ingunn. 1999. "Good passages, bad passages." Pp. 196-219 in Actor network theory and after, edited by John Law and John Hassard. Oxford: Blackwell.
—. 2000. "Against normalisation: subverting norms of ability and disability." Science as Culture 9(2):201-240.
Winance, Myriam. 2006. "Trying out wheelchair. The mutual shaping of people and devices through adjustment." Science, Technology and Human Values 31(1):52-72.