Differentiating Power for Developmental Disabilities: Representation in an Influential Japanese TV Programme

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Yukako NISHIDA, Nagoya University, Japan
In Japan, ‘developmental disabilities’ (DD) has become a generic term used to refer to disabilities such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disability (LD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Throughout 2017, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization, the NHK, aired the ‘DD project’ series featuring numerous TV programmes.

This presentation analyses the primary function of the most influential programme in the project; a discourse analysis is conducted to examine how differentiating powers are exercised.

The analysis revealed that the programme uses narratives and visual aids to differentiate between people with and without DD; it emphasises the sensory differences between them by employing explanatory narratives, experiential reports from those who identify themselves as having DD, and research findings. A graph of a test result comparing differences in auditory sensibilities could be considered an example of visual differentiation.

The differences between people with and without DD are also described as being cerebral. Unequal power relationships have been constructed between them, particularly in the discourse of cerebral differences. Unlike many other NHK programmes, this programme does not define DD as partial brain dysfunction; however, the use of expressions such as ‘having difficulty’ and ‘does not work well’ intensively implies that the sensory characteristics of people with DD are disabled.

Furthermore, in this programme, people with DD are described as the minority, compared with the majority without DD. In the discourse of majority-minority relationships, people with DD are depicted as suffering because the rules created by the majority are not suitable for them. Here, the social model of disability may emerge.

The programme includes both biomedical discourses and discourses based on the social model of disability. Although the former and the latter differ in identifying the position of disabilities, neither of them may be considered free of differentiating powers.