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South Asia and Disability Studies

Redefining Boundaries and Extending Horizons


Shridevi Rao and Maya Kalyanpur

Incorporating scholarship that addresses the social, economic, cultural, and historical facets of the experience of disability in South Asia, this book presents the reader with a comprehensive, cogent, and nuanced view of the constructions of disability in this region. In doing so, it focuses on the lived experiences of people with disabilities and their families, analyzing such disabling barriers as poverty, caste, and other inequities that limit their access to education, employment, equity, and empowerment. It addresses the interpretations of disability within different South Asian contexts including policy, family, educational systems, films, and literary narratives. Situated in an interdisciplinary perspective that spans areas such as cultural studies, law, disability studies in education, sociology, and historiography, South Asia and Disability Studies presents a rich and complex understanding of the disability experience in South Asia. The organization of topics parallels the discourse in areas within disability studies such as identity construction, language, historical constructions of disability, and cultural representations of disability.
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A Note on Language and Terminology


The language and terminology used to denote disability have undergone significant shifts over the last few decades. No longer is the issue of terminology merely a choice of technicalities; it is inextricably linked to notions of identity, humanity, and personhood. However, at the same time, it is also an issue fraught with contradictions. The discourse on language within the US has favored the use of Person First language such as “people with disabilities.” Many disability rights advocates as well as scholars in the US have acknowledged this convention as one that recognizes the humanity and unique identity of the individual first and then the disability. However, the discourse in the UK has tended to favor the use of the term “disabled.” Rooted within the social model, the conversation on disability semantics in the UK has drawn attention to the need to consciously adopt language that underscores the ways in which disability is created through the systemic exclusion and oppression of people with disabilities through policies and practice. The term “disabled” is preferred as it puts the onus for the construction of disability squarely on society and societal practices. In contrast to the way this term is viewed within the US, the use of the term “disabled” is not seen as one that communicates disability as a characteristic that is intrinsic to the person. Furthermore, recently, the neurodiversity movement in the US has called for the celebration of the identity of disability. Thus within this context, some self-advocates with autism reject...

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