Unexceptional Violence in Exceptional Times: Disablist and Ableist Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic


It is well established that violence and oppression towards vulnerable and marginalised communities are intensified and compounded during times of social upheaval, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated disablist and ableist violence against disabled people. During the first year of the pandemic, we have been confronted with instances of violence meted out to disabled subjects. In this article, we provide a theorisation of such violence. Based on an assemblage of our collective readings of Butler, Campbell and Young, as well as our own observations and experiences, we suggest that added anxieties currently confronting people’s fragile corporeal embodiment are licensing abled subjects to violate disabled subjects to put them back in their place. Through an excavation of ‘Norms, Binaries, and Anxieties’, ‘Abjection, Substitutability, and Disavowal’, and ‘Ableism and (Un)grievability’, we trace the social contours of disablist and ableist violence, both within and beyond the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide a way of imagining otherwise to resist this violence.


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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2021-06-01
Pages:140 to 155
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How to Cite
Thorneycroft, R. and Asquith, N. L. (2021) “Unexceptional Violence in Exceptional Times: Disablist and Ableist Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 10(2), pp. 140-155. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.1743.

Author Biographies

Western Sydney University

Ryan Thorneycroft is Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Social Sciences at Western Sydney University. He is an early career researcher and recently published his first book, Reimagining Disablist and Ableist Violence as Abjection, with Routledge's Interdisciplinary Disability Studies series. Ryan’s current work examines crip/queer theory, ableism, porn studies, violence, and abjection, and he has published in leading journals such as Theoretical Criminology, Disability & Society, and Porn Studies.

University of Tasmania

Nicole L Asquith is the Professor of Policing and Emergency Management and Director of the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies at the University of Tasmania. In addition to her academic work, Nicole is the Secretary of the Australian Hate Crime Network, the Co-Convenor of the NSW LGBTIQ Domestic and Family Violence Interagency, and along with Isabelle Bartkowiak-Théron, the Co-Director of the Vulnerability, Resilience and Policing Research Consortium. Nicole has worked with and for policing organisations for over 20 years, primarily in relation to the preparedness of police for managing complex interpersonal violence, including institutional responses to hate crime. She is the co-editor of Policing Encounters with Vulnerability (2017), and Policing Vulnerability (2012), author of Text and Context of Malediction (2008), and Critical Policing Studies (2021, forthcoming), and co-author of Crime and Criminology (6e, 2017), and Policing Practices and Vulnerable People (2021).