“I Am Human Too!” ‘Probeerruimte’ as Liminal Spaces in Search of Recognition

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

“I Am Human Too!” ‘Probeerruimte’ as Liminal Spaces in Search of Recognition


  • Fiona MacLeod Budge To-The-Point Consultancy, The Netherlands
  • Harry Wels Faculty of Social Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands, African Studies Centre Leiden, Leiden University, The Netherlands, and Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of the Western Cape, South Africa


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Abstract:  This paper explores the Dutch concept ‘probeerruimte’ in relation to the statement ‘human as a contested concept’, a highly relevant topic in disability studies. Probeerruimte encompasses the idea that people need space to ‘try things out’, a liminal space that facilitates personal development. It was conceived in a context where institutional practices exerted restrictive control over the lives of people with learning difficulties, denying them rights to self-determination and personal growth, rights that are integral to experiences of ‘being human’. The concept emerged about 20 years ago, and was revived during two studies conducted in 2014 and 2015.  The studies, commissioned by Disability Studies in Nederland (DSiN), explored perceptions of social inclusion. Study findings reveal the significance of associated concepts, inclusive of connectivity, citizenship, liminal spaces, and ‘risk taking’. Of critical importance is the need to challenge hegemonic practices that all too often disempower people with learning difficulties, remove their rights and, relegate their status to below citizenship. This paper addresses the relevance of probeerruimte for people with learning difficulties, from their perspectives, and examines how institutions can facilitate this process. Opinions from ‘all people’ involved in the conversation are used as data so as not to ‘label’ or make too strict a distinction between people with or without learning difficulties. The authors affirm the need to create probeerruimte to facilitate varied ways of existing. Ideally these ways of existing will promote opportunities for people with learning difficulties to engage in meaningful spaces, affirm their rights to citizenship and recognise their humanity.

Keywords:  citizenship; disability; learning difficulties; probeerruimte

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v4i4.701


© Fiona MacLeod Budge, Harry Wels. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.