Counting the Disabled: Engendering Precarity through Inclusive Infrastructures

- | McNeil Building 414 (Urban Studies Conference Room)

Add to calendar!

Speaker: Kim Fernandes, Anthropology and Education

Discussant: Dr. Shannon Mattern, Media Studies, History of Art

Abstract: Through ethnographic attention to the question of who officially comes to be counted as disabled in India, this paper will examine the politics behind the production of state knowledge on marginality and the uneasy forms of citizenship that are engendered when urban infrastructures are labeled as inclusive but experienced as exclusionary. Specifically, the paper asks: what does it mean to be numerically produced as a disabled citizen? How do bureaucratic structures and medical attempts to make the disabled body knowable influence and come to be influenced by everyday experiences of the embodiment of disability? Finally, how do these everyday attempts to count and be counted influence the varied spatiotemporalities of both violence and disabled experiences? Through this paper, I will examine the ways in which discourses on counting the disabled population as paradoxically work at once to produce citizens who are managed and made legible within a known category while often continuing to stigmatize and exclude these citizens. By tracing the production of embodied otherness through attention to the interactions between disabled citizens, activist groups across urban India, and the government, this paper outlines the ways in which bureaucratic facts are produced, challenged, or confirmed as authoritative, objective knowledge. The paper further extends scholarship from science and technology studies, urban studies, and the anthropology of disability to attend to the ways in which the processes of identifying, quantifying, and certifying disabled citizens generates a form of ordinal citizenship, i.e., a belonging by degree, and by extension a state of prolonged and perpetual uncertainty for those who seek official recognition.

Please contact Tessa Huttenlocher (thutten@sas.upenn.edu) with any questions.

To hear about this and other Urban Studies events, join our mailing list here.