Accepted Paper:

Sensory Citizens: Senses, Sociality, and Citizenship in a Learning Disability Arts Workshop  
Thu Thuy Phan (University of Glasgow)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines art as a conceptual and methodological tool to understand sensorial, embodied forms of sociality and engagement among artists with learning disabilities.

Paper long abstract:

Although in the past decades the term citizenship has been deployed in British social policy to promote the social life of people with learning disabilities, it has been much critiqued for maintaining abstract, neoliberal, and disembodied conceptions community belonging. In this paper, I examine the doing, making, and collaborating in art as a conceptual and methodological tool to understand sensorial, embodied forms of sociality and engagement among artists with learning disabilities. Based on ongoing fieldwork at an art workshop with people with learning disabilities in Glasgow, I explore alternative, practiced-based, and embodied formulations of citizenship.

First, I argue that art as anthropology provides a conceptual tool to study sociality as mediated through the senses and the body, hence complementing disembodied and abstract accounts of citizenship. Particularly, I focus on the role of materials in enabling (artistic) choice-making, and I further highlight the web of responsibilities and relationships in which individualist, neoliberal citizenship ideals are actualised. Subsequently, I argue that approaching art as anthropology serves as a methodological tool that enables broader, embodied notions of engagement. This can generate theoretically and politically productive conversations in inclusive learning disability research, a field that is currently impeded by issues of representation and the primacy of verbalisation. For anthropology, a field that has thus far under-researched learning disability, it can help explore the process by which embodied communities emerge through the training of the senses.

Panel P022
Doing, making, collaborating: art as anthropology