The staff are your friends: Intellectually disabled identities in official discourse and interactional practice

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Talk between care staff and people with learning disabilities may reveal a conflict between official policy and actual social practice. We explore a case in which care staff are in the process of soliciting residents' views on ‘relationships’. Ostensibly, this is an empowering part of a group meeting, meant to help the residents understand their relationships with the people around them, and to value those which are positive. However, the talk mutates from solicitation to instruction and, in doing so, provides a vivid case of people with learning disabilities being attributed social rights more limited than is consistent with institutional service policy. We unpack the play of category membership in this episode to illustrate how conflicting agendas can lead to the construction, even in ostensibly empowering encounters, of identities actively disavowed at the level of official discourse.

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