Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research


Stockholm University Press


School of Arts and Humanities




Simpson, W., Cooper, T., & Banham, V. (2019) From criminalisation to individual choice: Policy responses to changing constructions of intellectual disability in Western Australia. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 21(1),100–110. Available here


This article uses an historical perspective to explore how constructions of disability influenced policy and services for people with intellectual disabilities in Western Australia (WA) from the time of British colonisation until the present day. The authors approach the discussion from a critical disability perspective in the analysis of disability constructs, political responses and social change, incorporating the Foucauldian concept of biopower to explain the physical infrastructure, classification and dividing practices that produced ‘docile subjects’. The authors argue that changing social constructions of disability since the 18th century affected the lives of people with disability in WA and continue, through their embodiment in infrastructure, to influence present-day practices, even after policy has changed. This approach illuminates the interplay between metaphorical and literal constructions of disability and allows the legacy of past assumptions to be examined.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research Themes

Society and Culture

Priority Areas

Diverse, equitable, informed and productive communities, schools and workplaces

Included in

Sociology Commons