The ideology of neuroscience and intellectual disability: reconstituting the 'disordered' brain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


During the last two or three decades, neuroscience has changed how we understand brain functioning. This shift, which is re-conceptualizing the relationship between the materiality of the brain and consciousness, is bound to have implications for intellectual disability, which is commonly seen as a condition of the brain. At present, examinations of intellectual disability that deploy techniques and concepts from neuroscience constitute a growing research field that has been welcomed in some quarters of the disability research community. The purpose of this article is to urge for caution as regards this development. I argue that the neuroscience of intellectual disability is embodying ideological propositions that need to be problematized. By theorizing the relationship between biology and politics and examining neuroscientific publications on intellectual disability, I argue that this strand of research is underpinned by a discursive division between normal and pathological, that it therefore constitutes a continuation of understanding intellectual disability as a 'disorder' and that any firm separation between the 'nature' of intellectual disability and processes of power is inherently problematic. To be able to critically approach the neuroscience of intellectual disability, it is vital that disability researchers problematize the relationship between biology and politics.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science


  • bio-politics, intellectual disability, neuroscience, disability studies
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1460-1472
JournalDisability & Society
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch