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DisPovertyPorn: Benefits Street and the dis/ability paradox

Runswick-Cole, K and Goodley, D (2015) DisPovertyPorn: Benefits Street and the dis/ability paradox. Disability and Society, 30. ISSN 0968-7599

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Abstract

© 2015 Taylor & Francis. In this article, we offer a timely socio-cultural analysis, informed by a critical disability perspective, of UK Channel 4’s reality television series Benefits Street. Drawing on the work of Allen, Tyler, and De Benedictus and Jensen on ‘poverty porn’, we broaden their analysis to ask how dis/ability disrupts the ‘poverty porn’ narrative. We pay attention to the dis/appearance of dis/ability on Benefits Street and, in doing so, we also extend an analysis of how impairment labels function in people’s lives as socio-cultural categories that place limits on what labelled people can do and can be. We suggest that both the articulation and erasure of dis/ability are used as a form of narrative prosthesis to support the overarching story line that people on benefits are unworthy ‘scroungers’.

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