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Situating Disability in the Anthropology of the Middle East

  • Christine Sargent (a1)


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Author's note: Many thanks to the families and individuals who made my project possible, and to the generous colleagues—Geoffrey Hughes, Nama Khalil, Susan MacDougall, Ana Vinea, Rayya El Zein, and Tyler Zoanni—who helped me think through this piece.

1 These pseudonyms employ the kunyeh formula commonly used by my interlocutors.

2 Ginsburg, Faye and Rapp, Rayna, “Disability Worlds,” Annual Review of Anthropology 42 (2013): 5368; Kasnitz, Devva and Shuttlesworth, Russell, “Introduction: Anthropology in Disability Studies,” Disability Studies Quarterly 21 (2001): 217.

3 This point builds on Elizabeth Roberts’ critical approach to biosociality in Ecuador. See Roberts, , “Biology, Sociality and Reproductive Modernity in Ecuadorian In-Vitro Fertilization: The Particulars of Place,” in Biosocialities, Genetics and the Social Sciences: <aking Biologies and Identities, ed. Gibbon, Sahra and Novas, Carlos (New York: Routledge, 2008).

4 I draw here from critical, feminist, and anthropological perspectives on care. For an overview, see Buch, Alana, “Anthropology of Aging and Care,” Annual Review of Anthropology 44 (2015): 7793.

5 Mayssoun Sukarieh analyzes these dynamics in The Hope Crusades: Culturalism and Reform in the Arab World,” Political and Legal Anthropology Review 35 (2012): 115–34.

6 See Adely, Fida, Gendered Paradoxes: Educating Jordanian Women in Nation, Faith, and Progress (Chicago: University of Chiago Press, 2012); and Hasso, Frances H., “Empowering Governmentalities Rather than Women: The Arab Human Development Report 2005 and Western Development Logics,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 41 (2009): 6382.

7 Jordan's disability activists partake in transnational human rights campaigns and development projects. They are conversant in international and domestic disability law and work to close the gaps between law and practice. Many activists have bodily impairments and are employed by the government, Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs), or NGOs. Most of my interlocutors, however, did not belong to these networks, identifying as concerned parents and caregivers.

8 Hasso, Frances H., Consuming Desires: Family Crisis and the State in the Middle East (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2011); Hughes, Geoffrey, “Infrastructures of Legitimacy: The Political Lives of Marriage Contracts in Jordan,” American Ethnologist 42 (2015): 279–94.

9 Two recent examples are Inhorn, Marcia C. and Tremayne, Soraya, “Islam, Assisted Reproduction, and the Bioethical Aftermath,” Journal of Religion and Health 55 (2016): 422–30; and Samin, Nadav, Of Sand or Soil: Genealogy and Tribal Belonging in Saudi Arabia (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2015).

10 Hall., Kim Q.New Conversations in Feminist Disability Studies: Feminism, Philosophy, and Borders,” Hypatia 30 (2015): 112.

11 See Friedner, Michele, Valuing Deaf Worlds in Urban India (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2015) on deafness in urban India, Nakamura, Karen, A Disability of the Soul: An Ethnography of Schizophrenia and Mental Illness in Contemporary Japan (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2013) on mental illness in Japan, and McKearney, Patrick and Zoanni, Tyler, “Introduction: For an Anthropology of Cognitive Disability,” The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 36 (2018): 121.

Situating Disability in the Anthropology of the Middle East

  • Christine Sargent (a1)


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