Nothing (About Us) Without Us. Activism of Women-led Disability Civil Society Organisations in Post-socialist Poland

Szarota, Magdalena (2023) Nothing (About Us) Without Us. Activism of Women-led Disability Civil Society Organisations in Post-socialist Poland. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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Taking a Disability Studies perspective, this thesis aims to answer the question: what is possible in women-led disability activism in post-socialist Poland? Specifically, it examines how three case study organisations – which were identified as the key sites of women-led disability activism – have conceptualized disability, ‘the personal is political’ and activism in the period between 2004 (establishment of the first Polish disabled women’s organisation) and 2018 (Concluding Observations by UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities regarding the implementation of the CRPD by the Polish state). The study draws on a qualitative analysis of seven semi-structured interviews with key representatives of the case study organisations. It also examines the organisations’ open-access materials. The thesis makes numerous contributions to Polish and international Disability Studies. In particular, it constitutes the first academic exploration of Polish women-led civil society organisations within Disability Studies.The thesis examines how discrimination and depoliticisation based on gender and disability is influenced by political and economic discourses dominant in post-socialist Poland. The study also offers the first mapping and analysis of the post-1989 Polish academic disability discourse. Furthermore, it evidences that the case study organisations should be categorized as feminist – whether they explicitly identify as such, and regardless of what type of feminism(s) they represent. The thesis also investigates how the feminist premise ‘personal is political’ manifests in case study organisations’ activism. Moreover, it demonstrates that the organisations under analysis conceptualize disability in ways that challenge the dominant socio-legal understandings of this notion. They also offer insightful alternatives. Finally, the thesis reveals that – unlike the majority of Polish disability organisations – the case study ones position themselves in the politicized segment of the Polish civil society, rather than in its depoliticized and charity-oriented part. Overall, the study argues that the key womenled disability organisations and their leaders enrich existing debates about activism and disability, and they provide important critiques of the Polish post-socialist society and state.

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Thesis (PhD)
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05 May 2023 12:50
Last Modified:
12 Sep 2023 00:57