Nathanje Dijkstra MA


Making up disability? Disability benefit legislation and disability identity formation in cases of traumatic neurosis and amputation in the Netherlands (1901-1967)

Ever since the introduction of the first act regulating the insurance of labourers in cases of accidents in the Netherlands, the Ongevallenwet(1901), politicians, doctors and scholars have been discussing the political and economic effects of social security legislation. The regulations have constantly been tightened to make sure ‘the right people’ receive benefits, and to keep the welfare state affordable. While these debates still make the headlines on a daily basis, there is a lack of fundamental research on how processes of in- and exclusion have affected notions of who ‘the right people’ actually are and what disability means in the context of the welfare state.                     

This project analyses the effect that in- and exclusion procedures of disability benefits had on the way people were identified. Disability benefit legislation necessitates classification. As philosophers of science have shown, classifications ensure that people adopt the way they are being described, but at the same time the classifications are also changed and adapted by people. Interaction with the classification therefore ‘makes up’ the group of people that are being classified.                                            

By targeting the cultural impact and by critically examining its practical and material consequences in contested cases of  ‘traumatic neurosis’ and in less contested cases of amputation in the context of the Ongevallenwet (1901-1967), this project aims to find out how disability benefit legislation brought disability into existence. This research’ focus on identity formation helps to grasp a tacit logic behind why so many people became entitled to benefits in the Netherlands.