Original Research

‘Satan is holding your tongue back’: Stuttering as moral failure

Dane H. Isaacs
African Journal of Disability | Vol 10 | a773 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v10i0.773 | © 2021 Dane H. Isaacs | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 July 2020 | Published: 23 April 2021

About the author(s)

Dane H. Isaacs, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa; and, Human and Social Capabilities Division, Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

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Background: The last decade has seen researchers and speech–language pathologists employ and advocate for a disability studies approach in the study of the lived experiences of people who stutter and in the design of interventions and treatment approaches for such individuals. Joshua St. Pierre, one of the few theorists to explore stuttering as a disability, mentions as a key issue the liminal nature of people who stutter when describing their disabling experiences.

Objectives: This article aimed to build on the work of St. Pierre, exploring the liminal nature of people who stutter.

Method: Drawing on my personal experiences of stuttering as a coloured South African man, I illuminated the liminal nature of stuttering.

Results: This analytic autoethnography demonstrates how the interpretation of stuttering as the outcome of moral failure leads to the discrimination and oppression of people who stutter by able-bodied individuals as well as individuals who stutter.

Conclusion: As long as stuttering is interpreted as the outcome of moral failure, the stigma and oppression, as well as the disablism experience by people who stutter, will continue to be concealed and left unaddressed.


autoethnography; disability; discrimination; oppression; liminal nature; moral failure; South Africa; stuttering


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Crossref Citations

1. Stuttering and the social model
Christopher Constantino, Patrick Campbell, Sam Simpson
Journal of Communication Disorders  vol: 96  first page: 106200  year: 2022  
doi: 10.1016/j.jcomdis.2022.106200