Introduction to the Special Issue: “Self-Determination” as a Social Construct: Cross-cultural Considerations

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David Leake
James Skouge


self determination, disablity studies, Pacific islands


This special issue of the Review of Disability Studies is meant to stimulate thinking and dialogue about how self-determination is conceived and promoted by and for people with disabilities, and how the concept and its application might be enhanced to better empower and improve the quality of life of people with disabilities around the world. We decided to devote time and effort to this topic because of our observations that self-determination as typically presented is not a good fit for cultural milieu in Hawaii and across the Pacific region. A likely reason for this lack of fit emerged as we read a large proportion of the many publications on self-determination and people with disabilities: the self-determination concept as typically defined is rooted in the individualistic values common to Western cultures, whereas most residents of Hawaii and other Pacific Islands come from collectivistic cultural backgrounds.

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