Accepted Paper:

Comparative socialities of migrants and the disabled  


Beata Świtek (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper proposes looking at human disability and migration as comparable experiences resulting in similar limitations of the individuals' social capacities. Applying the disability theories to migration it investigates the nature of the negotiations between the different modes of sociality.

Paper long abstract:

If disability is a limitation of the social capacities of a person due to their impairment and the resulting 'alternative' mode(s) of interaction with the physical and social environment, then the sociality of a migrant represents a comparable alternative resulting in certain social limitations, too. The notion of 'impairment' suggests diminished functionality, which is an amalgamation of individual abilities and preferences, and the externally imposed impediments. Both, the disabled and migrants experience confinement to designated spaces, either physical or discoursive.

Imposing limitations on individuals does not sit well with the ideas of equality. It has been acknowledged, that equality does not always mean uniform treatment, but the focus remains on the disabled/migrant individuals to achieve full social and/or physical capacities by supplementing whatever is missing and to unify as mush as possible their functionality with the majority archetype.

What requires attention is who is making these adjustments, how and why. Basing on the idea that becoming disabled and becoming a migrant requires and results in adjustments to the 'code' of social practices, and seeing the two conditions as corresponding experiences in terms of alternative mode(s) of sociality, I look at the experiences of the Indonesian migrant workers to Japan through the prism of the disability theories. I aim to track the various tactics, negotiations, experiments, and mutual adjustments, to show how the 'alien' can become the 'alternative', or even 'familiar', and how the unquestioned archetype may fall under closer scrutiny while the migrants are given back some of their agency.

Panel P10
Imagining disabilities in multiple agents