Who coined this phrase?
May 15, 2007 12:56 PM   Subscribe

What is the origin of "Nothing about us without us"?

"Nothing about us without us" has been used for quite some time in the context of oppression of those with disabilities. Does anyone know who coined this phrase and whether it was used initially by a specific advocacy group? There is a book with this title, but I am really trying to tie it to a particular group if that's possible.

posted by beelover to Society & Culture (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This page has some information on this, though it's not definitive:
As many readers will know, the origin of the slogan, "Nothing About Us Without Us," has long been discussed since it was first used in the early 1980s by disability rights groups. It is often attributed to Southern African disability rights groups but some South Africans recall hearing it first from Eastern Europeans at disability rights conferences. There is a Polish law of 1505 that translates into this slogan (meant to establish that the King could not pass laws without going through the Sejm or Parliament) which has long been used as a touchstone of democracy there, re-launched and well-publicized in the early 1980s by the Solidarity movement of Polish laborers. It is possible that Eastern European disability activists introduced this rallying cry to international meetings, where it may have found particularly deep resonance in South Africa's fledgling movement to include disability activism in the struggles against apartheid.
posted by cerebus19 at 1:22 PM on May 15, 2007

cerebus19: wow. Thanks. I had heard of the South Africa thing, but not the Poland story - that's pretty neat.

Temple University's Disability Studies blog has a relatively recent post on the origins of 'TAB' (temporarily able bodied) in the community, and I suspect the same problem comes up there: it's not a particularly odd phrase, so whether it was independently coined more than once, or arose from a single source way back in the mists of the past, is not very clear.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 2:05 PM on May 15, 2007

I didn't find it here, but if anyone is looking for the source of a phrase, you'll LOVE this site:

posted by lubujackson at 3:12 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

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