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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 13: Conclusion


In no way can we claim that this book presents an exhaustive review of the disability experience in South Asia. South Asia is by no means a monolithic region. It is diverse and so is the disability experience there. We have tried to capture some facets of the disability experience toward a deeper exploration and the possibilities for conversation between the broader field of disability studies and South Asia. Such an exploration is not simple or easy. Constructions of disability in South Asia no longer fit snugly into neat little categories of the lens of “karma” or “fate” and resist being circumscribed within a unitary theoretical framework, while the structures of caste, gender, and poverty add further layers of complexity to the experience. The politics of development and the increasing role of international aid agencies in influencing disability policy and practice against a historical landscape of colonization further compound the issue. Using the two primary Northern constructions of disability, the social model and the development/ geodisability model, as our basic framework, in this chapter we raise some questions and identify certain themes. In the process of doing so, we argue that the time has come for moving beyond Northern constructions of disability.

At the core of the growth of disability studies as a field has been the social model. It has played an important role in shaping the international discourse on disability and has been credited with precipitating considerable change including mobilizing the disability rights movement, identifying barriers,...

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