Professor Anita Ghai – Disability in South Asia…

Profile Professor Anita Ghai LE Mag Vol one Dec 2018

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Disability in South Asia: Experience and Knowledge edited by Professor Anita Ghai

Anita Ghai joined as a professor in School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi, in 2015. Before this, Anita has been an associate professor in Department of Psychology in Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi. Her interest is in disability studies and issues of sexuality, psychology and gender. As a former fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum Library, Teen Murti Bhavan, Anita has researched on issues of care of disabled women recipients, that is, their daughters and providers of care, that is, the mothers with leanings towards feminist and disability theory. Anita has been the former President of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies. She has authored Re-thinking Disability in India, Routledge, New Delhi (2015) and (Dis)Embodied Form: Issues of Disabled Women (2003), and co-authored The Mentally Handicapped: Prediction of the Work Performance with Anima Sen.

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SAGE US: This title is currently not available in the US.

Disability in Asia Book Professor Anita GhaiDisability Studies as a formal academic discipline has been making significant strides in western academia since the 1990s with immense interdisciplinary scholarship and the emergence of several full-fledged academic programmes. However, Disability Studies scholarship in India is in a relatively nascent stage. There is an urgent need to initiate interdisciplinary scholarship and programmes in Disability Studies and institutionalise disability as an independent epistemological approach to academic enquiry in a range of disciplines. The School of Human Studies at Ambedkar University (Delhi) is attempting to incorporate a disability perspective in its existing programmes and commence academic programmes in Disability Studies. The present book Disability in South Asia.: Experience and Knowledge is intended to be an anchor text for these academic efforts.

The main aim of the book is to understand disability as an epistemology across various disciplines. How do we come to know disability? An attempt is made to understand the social, political and cultural construction of disability as opposed the perception of disability as a medical condition or a biological trait. The book attempts to challenge the implications of the historical relegation of the study of disability to the rehabilitation sciences and special education and explore the relevance of disability to various other fields of enquiry. It shall attempt to foreground how the inclusion of a disability perspective within mainstream academia can enrich scholarship and contribute to the understanding of the processes of social marginalization and the construction of difference, which shall be of tremendous relevance to various kinds of social oppression beyond disability. It is intended that chapters included in the book shall reflect the breakdown of multiple boundaries that Disability Studies can potentially initiate: boundaries between academia and advocacy, the personal and the political, the margin and the centre. An attempt shall also be made to capture how Disability Studies can facilitate inter-school collaboration and the benefits of this collaboration. The interdisciplinary character of Disability Studies enables it to incorporate the conceptual frameworks and intellectual tools of various disciplines from engineering to law, literature to sociology as well as enrich these disciplines by questioning their fundamental theoretical and methodological orientations.

Hopefully, the book will be a critical work of scholarship in Disability Studies that explores the full complexity of disability in its multi-layered, interactional dynamics.

Key Features    

  • Includes works by both well-established scholars as well as emerging young scholars in the field of Disability Studies
  • Includes works by academicians, activists, people with disabilities and caregivers
  • Includes reflective and critical analyses of personal narratives
  • A focus on foregrounding disability as an independent epistemology in its own right across various interdisciplinary areas of study
  • An exploration of disability across various academic fields of enquiry

The book comprises seven sections:

Historical Perspectives
Disability, Body, Sexuality, Care
Knowing the Self and Writing Life
Disability in Literature and Culture Disability, Family Epistemologies and Resistance to Shame within the Indian Context

Legal Discourses of Disability in India

Part 1: Historical Perspectives

This module examines disability through historical perspectives with a specific focus on shifts in the construction of disability, the emergence of disability as a socio-cultural and political category as opposed to a medical condition and the evolution of institutions for the disabled. While western discourses of disability shall be explored in this module, there shall be a thrust on the history of disability in South Asia. This section  shall  focus on the history of the disability rights movement in India through the works of Jagdish Chander and Meenu Bhambani. History is also explored through shifts in academic approaches to disability studies, as explored by Fiona Kumari Campbell and Tanmoy Bhattacharya and the evolution of disability as an epistemological concept to question and challenge the injustice principle shall be explored through the works of Deepa Pallaniappan and Valerian Rodriguez.

Part 2: Disability,  Body, Sexuality , Care

Disability and identity politics shall be the thrust of the module. There would be an exploration of disability as it intersects with gender and sexuality. Nandini Ghosh explores the concepts of embodiment, femininity and sexuality through the experiences of disabled women who remain marginal to studies of both women and disabled people’s experiences. Postcolonial readings of queer-disability studies are explored by Janet Price and Niluka Gunawardena. Finally, Upali Chakravarty explores the philosophy and practices of the ethics of care in the complex terrain of women’s rights and disabled people’s lives.

Part 3: Knowing the Self and Writing Life

Disability Studies is deeply invested in constructing a phenomenological and substantive understanding of disability. Foregrounding the lived experiences of people with disabilities through a study of personal narratives is another important concern of the book  The aim is to develop a nuanced understanding of disability from the marginalised standpoints of people with disabilities. It is envisioned that a study of these narratives shall give rise to important methodological questions such as ‘Who ought to speak for whom?’, ‘What are the limits of self-representation?’, ‘How does disability complicate subjectivity and agency?’, and others. These questions shall also be addressed in the book Nidhi Goyal and Sameer Chaturvedi explore debates within disability studies through their personal experiences of disability. Asha Singh explores the concept of “atypicality” through the experiences of a child with a disability. Sandeep R. Singh explores the nature of disability life-writing through the writing of Oliver W. Sacks. Hemchandran Karah analyses blind cultures and the role of cosmologies in the works of Ved Mehta.

Part 4: Disability in Literature and Culture

This module aims to explore the perceptions and constructions of disability within South Asian cultures as well as literary representations of disability.  Shubhangi Vaidya explores various aspects of disability cultures including D/deaf cultures, neurodiversity movements and other important cultural phenomena in South Asia. Shilpaa Anand explores discourses of corporeality through cultural and historical medicine perspectives and their relevance to disability. Someshwar Sati analyses disability in selected works of Indian English fiction and Santosh Kumar explores the important use of disability as metaphor in the Jataka Katha.

Part 5: Disability, Family Epistemologies and Resistance to Shame within the Indian Context

The family, educational institutions and workplaces shall be analysed as important sites for the oppression as well as the realization of rights of people with disabilities. Shridevi Rao explores the role of the family as a source of resistance to shame for disabled people within the Indian context. Ankur Madan analyses the current state of inclusive education in India and recommends best practices in inclusive education. Suchaita Tenneti explores the need for a structural understanding of disability in addition to a phenomenological one to positively affect teachers’ perspectives of children with disabilities. Arun Kumar and Nivedita Kotyal explore the role of disability in the workplace through media representations and CSR initiatives that develop diversity discourses of disability.

Part 6: Legal Discourses of Disability in India

This section analyses disability as a legal and political construct.  The manner in which the concept of disability has evolved in legal discourses in India and the impact of legal reforms on the construction of disability and the formulation of legal discourses pertaining to disability. Amita Dhanda analyses legal provisions for people with disabilities through disability studies perspectives. Rukmini Sen focuses on the construction of kinship in legal discourses on disability in India.

Part 7: Constructing Disability as Human Diversity

This module explores the notion of disability as a dimension of human diversity and debates surrounding this view. The notion of disability as diversity is a major “move” in DS that validates the existence of multiple variations of “the good life” and “the ideal self”. Shanti Auluck uses a liberal framework to reflect on her personal experiences as the parent of a child with a disability and a disability rights activist and to foreground disability as a critical aspect of human diversity. Anita Ghai takes on a more critical perspective on diversity by emphasizing the power relations inherent in the constitution of the concept of disability and it affecting the experiences of disability that problematise diversity discourses in disability studies.

The edited  book   has focused on    disability  studies  as epistemology , which would validate the fact that it is not a characteristic that exists in the person, but a construct that finds its meaning in social  cultural and political context. The reader will, thus, come across both the experiential terrain as well as theoretical nuances of disability.  I hope that this book will resonate not only with be students and scholars  of disability studies, but  to activists and lay readers concerned  with the disability movement.