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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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Chapter 11: Disability and Modernity: Bringing Disability Studies to Literary Research in India


How do we find disability in Indian literary texts? Disability studies have begun to murmur in the corridors of English departments or schools of humanities in India and the result is a large-scale hunt for disability in literary texts. Small streams of graduate students and researchers find themselves tied up in knots trying to identify, classify and qualify texts from the canon of Indian writing in English as having elements of disability or of being worthy of examination from a disability studies perspective. Many like to think what they’ve taken on is a worthy but difficult task and hope of being lauded for the very attempt they have made to bring “fresh” disability studies style thinking to “same old” English studies. While the search is underway, sometimes fruitful, at most times confusing, I want to take up for consideration this very question that has come to haunt our younger researchers. How do we engage with this convergence of disability studies and English studies in the Indian context?

Two tropes of existing enquiry come to mind. One is the wide range of research studies that have emerged when erstwhile English studies scholars study representation, discourse and characterization of disability in literary texts (Bolt, 2003; Couser, 2002; Davis, 1995; Mitchell & Snyder, 2003; Siebers, 2002; Thomson, 1997). The second is the host of studies that have reflected on the globalization or universalization of disability as a category as well as of disability studies as a line of academic inquiry that...

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