Capturing What Impairment Enables: A View from an African Urban Situation

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Seminar 52 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Yukie NAKAO, Kyoto University, Japan
For a long period of time, medical sociology and disability studies have been the main disciplines that concern disability/impairment from a sociological perspective, while recent sociologists are starting to contemplate disability/impairment as a sort of equality and diversity problems just like gender, “race”, social class, etc. However, there is room for theoretical sophistication to bring up the issues of disability/impairment for discussion of diversity. A way to achieve this is to examine case studies from different time and space.
     This presentation aims to evaluate the viewpoint which regards impairments as diversity as an analytical tool for ethnographic research on survival strategy of people with physical impairments in developing countries. To achieve this, I analyze qualitative data collected during my field research in Dar es Salaam, the largest city of Tanzania. In the Tanzanian society, like other African countries, two different conceptual sets of disability/impairment coexist: concepts imported from the global north, like “disability” as distinguished from impairments, and local terms used in daily situation to recognize a part of people by their physical or mental features, which are similar to “impairments” in words of the north. The society does not afford adequate welfare systems provided by officials for the “people with disability.” In such situation, people designated “disabled” or “impaired” utilize their physical features to survive. In the Tanzanian context, impairments and disability do not directly mean the people’s exclusion from the society, and impairments can even function positively in getting a job. This is relevant to the historical socio-economic backgrounds, the general economical disability (poverty), and the situation that most economic activities are carried out in informal sector. I assert that, to capture their survival strategies and to describe complicated situations around people “with disability” in Tanzania, an approach which regards impairments as a sort of diversity is effective.