Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
Categorizing Disability, Negotiating Belonging: What Does It Take to Be Counted as Disabled in India?

Recent legislation in India outlines a comprehensive framework for the rights and entitlements of people with disabilities to state services. However, the process of being counted and legally certified as disabled is at best fraught, due to which several disabled people are not officially considered as having a disability. As a result, despite recent national attempts to statistically quantify disability in the most accurate manner possible, numerous peoples' embodied experiences of otherness remains unvalidated. They face significant challenges in their everyday lives but are not able to participate in social entitlements largely because their bodies are outside of the margins of state acceptability. This project seeks to understand the politics behind the production of knowledge on people with disabilities by examining the role of state and non-state actors in identity-making around disability and the subsequent production of statistics as bureaucratic facts. Specifically, this research asks: what does it mean to be numerically produced as disabled? How does the emergence of bureaucratic structures and attempts to make the disabled body knowable influence and come to be influenced by everyday experiences of the embodiment of disability? The project design involves 12 months of 1) ethnographic research among bureaucrats, disability rights activists, and people with disabilities in the capital, Delhi and 2) archival research in the National Archives of India on the changes in the way that the category of disability has been numerically produced, the collection of media data from major newspapers and the analyses provide by organizers on social media. This study will develop an empirical base from which to interrogate the lived experiences of those designated as undeserving of recognition by the state and will in turn enrich current debates in the anthropology of quantification, critical disability studies and decolonial social studies of scientific knowledge.