Accepted Paper:

Experience of disability in South Africa  


Camilla Hansen (Oslo Metropolitan University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will investigate how the socio-political disability experience is incorporated within the democratic transformation process in South Africa. With ethnography from two settings (rural and urban) subjective disability experience will be emphasized in conjunction with poverty.

Paper long abstract:

The historical and social transformation process after apartheid has extended the disabled person into political subjects who resist the one-dimensional picture of the disabled body as part of domination, normalization and dependency; culture produces the person "all the way down" in Geertz's sense (2007). The political movement of struggle against apartheid has created new relations among people and new social identities. The root of apartheid, the sign classification, and labelling disability have a common ground with general discrimination mechanisms in South Africa. Further, the fact that many people became disabled due to the struggle against apartheid makes the connection to the national project of reconciliation and rehabilitation. The movement have made a culture of disability which flow between people and creates support and possibilities ("I can" Merleau Ponty 2002). Establishment of such cultures has manifested the self within intersubjective encounters were the person is woven into close relationships to manage the every day life situations. This paper investigates how disability activists rewrite poverty knowledge by giving the poor disabled persons new images closely linked to the local concept of ubuntu. Using multi sited ethnography the material is collected over a period of 11 month fieldwork in two settings rural areas in Eastern Cape and the political urban centre. The project has financial support from Norwegian Research Council (2005-2008).

Panel W014
From medical pluralism to therapeutic plurality: medical anthropology and the politics of diversity, knowledge, and experience from multiple perspectives