Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Demanding Money with Menaces

Fear and Loathing in the Archipelago of Confinement

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2020), 14, (1), 91–108.


The article aims to expose the ways in which, from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, professions and institutions of confinement have both stoked and assuaged emotions toward people marked with intellectual or cognitive impairments, and consequently profited from the regime of truth they have helped to construct around what are now commonly called Learning Difficulties. Under this regime, people marked with intellectual impairments or perceived deficits are represented as menacing or risky Others; at the same time, the professions and institutions of confinement assume authority over “the problem” by relocating and segregating stigmatized individuals and assuring the public that “the problem” is under control. Beginning by alluding to the birth of the asylums in the mid-nineteenth century, the article then concentrates on two periods, the early twentieth and twenty-first centuries, to illustrate how this process continues to this day. This process, which initially had charitable aims and thus required income generation, now serves ablenationalist interests while also creating significant corporate profits across various locations, widely dispersed across what might be termed the archipelago of confinement.

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Author details

Barden, Owen