Countering Ableism in Knowledge Production

Empowerment of Subaltern People and Reproduction of Epistemic Hierarchies

Keywords: ableism in knowledge production, inclusive research, disability hierarchies, empowerment, anthropology at home, disability studies, experiential expertise


Participatory action research (PAR) employs co-researchers to further epistemic justice for and empowerment of subaltern people. This methodological reflection discusses how user-led PAR with disabled people challenges ableism – hegemonic notions about normate bodyminds – in knowledge production. I draw on my experiences as a disabled anthropologist and as a facilitator of Zeg het ons! PAR projects – the Dutch version of Ask me!, Zeg het ons! seeks scientific recognition and counters ableism by empowering co-researchers to deploy their experiential disability expertise in quality-of-life research. PAR may contribute to de-ableization while partly reproducing epistemic hierarchies. PAR requires experiential and theoretical knowledge on how to deploy positionalities, institutional and interactional arrangements to be successful. More attention for experiential and practical knowledge in academic outlets could help.

Author Biography

Karen Mogendorff, Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam

Dr. Karen Mogendorff is a disabled anthropologist and communication scientist with an interest in the uses of experiential expertise alongside other forms of expertise. Currently, she works at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Her work there focuses on building an infrastructure for participation of disabled people in medical research.


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How to Cite
Mogendorff, Karen. 2023. “Countering Ableism in Knowledge Production: Empowerment of Subaltern People and Reproduction of Epistemic Hierarchies”. Swiss Journal of Sociocultural Anthropology 28 (February):41-60.