Interview with Phd candidate Marie Sépulchre


Interview with Phd candidate Marie Sépulchre who will soon defend her thesis: This is not citizenship. Analysing the claims of disability activists in Sweden. The defence takes place May 31 at 1:15 pm in room IX, University Main Building, Uppsala. 

Hi Marie Sépulchre, PhD Candidate at the Department of

Photo: Pernilla Ågård

Sociology of Uppsala University. On 31st May you will defend your thesis This is not citizenship. Analysing the claims of disability activists in Sweden, what's the main focus of the thesis?

Today we often talk about the inclusion of disabled people in society. We also talk about the rights of disabled people. For example, the right to personal assistance has recently been the object of debates in Sweden. My thesis addresses these issues by taking a step back and considering the construction of citizenship for disabled people. Citizenship is here understood as formal membership in a state. The way citizenship is constructed changes throughout history and is, among others, influenced by activists claiming full inclusion for marginalised groups of people in society.  

My thesis examines the claims of activists who engage around the issue of disability in Sweden. It is based on the analysis of 474 blog posts and debate articles published in daily newspapers. The thesis asks two questions. First, how is citizenship for disabled people constructed in Sweden, according to the claims of the disability activists? Second, what types of changes the Swedish disability activists envision?

Which are the most important results?

My thesis proposes that citizenship consists of seven main components, which I call citizenship building blocks. These are: legal rights, state authorities, territory, costs, time, population and normative ideals. The empirical analysis shows that the disability activists often refer to these citizenship building blocks in their claims. I argue therefore that their struggle can be understood as a citizenship struggle. Based on the analysis of the 474 blog posts and debate articles, the thesis describes the different citizenship building blocks in relation to the situation of disabled people. It highlights that there are tensions and contradictions between the different citizenship building blocks (e.g. between rights and costs) and between the claims of the disability activists (e.g. between claims arguing the disabled people are ordinary citizens and claims arguing that disabled people form a special group of citizens). Finally, the thesis argues that the claims of the disability activists in Sweden are both defensive (e.g. when they resist the cuts regarding the measure of personal assistance) and proactive (e.g. when they propose new ideas such as considering the ‘big picture’ of the costs of disability measures).

In what way is new knowledge relevant for society?

As mentioned earlier, the topics of inclusion and rights of disabled people in Sweden are currently debated. However, it can be difficult to follow disability politics because so many texts are being published in daily newspapers, magazines, social media, and so forth. This thesis analyses and discusses the arguments that have been expressed in the public sphere by a wide range of disability activists in Sweden in the past decade. Moreover, the new knowledge proposed by this dissertation is helpful to get a better understanding of what these issues mean in terms of citizenship.

What´s in the future for you? Will you keep on conducting research?

Yes, I would like to continue conducting research. I have many ideas. One dream research project would be to compare the citizenship struggle of disabled people with the citizenship struggle of other groups of citizens. Another project would be to take a closer look into the ‘costs’ of disability in Sweden.

Link to divapost