Date of Award

June 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Douglas P. Biklen


Agency, Competence, Co-vivial community, Friendships, Human value, Intellectual disability labels

Subject Categories



This is a qualitative study of friendships among people with intellectual disability labels in two countries - the United States and Japan. As a field to study friendships among adults with intellectual disability label, I gained access to two sheltered workshops ("The Farm" in the U.S. and "The Kapu Kapu" in Japan) and conducted participant observation, through which I wished to identify broader, multiple, and more humane ways to define competence and human value that could validate people labeled intellectually disabled whose humanity and citizenship are often doubted by dominant standards in industrialized societies. In addition to resisting social standards and presenting broader meanings of participation and competence, the informants of this study seemed to try to resist giving significant authority to the concepts of competence and utility in relation to human worth and to build community that does not question who should or should not be the valid members of the community. The observed communities helped me to imagine a different, more just world, and were characterized as "co-vivial" (a term coined by a Japanese philosopher to mean "live with different others convivially"). The informants of this study cultivated co-vivial communities by staying connected, seeing others as irreplaceable individuals, being responsive to others, being open to interdependent way of life, and affirming every existence unconditionally.


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