On the Ethnography

The following four snapshots offer a glimpse in the ethnography, which laid the foundation for the book: Politicising Polio Disability, Civil Society and Civic Agency in Sierra Leone

Like all ethnography, this one is also anchored in space and time. Therefore, it allows a glimpse into global processes from the perspective of the South, one decade after the end of the Cold-War. Ever since many things have changed, others have not. Consequently, these images may serve a quest for the remnants of the past in the present. They talk about power and suffering, crisis and resistance from the singular prism of disability.

Being disabled in the Global South

The Global South is a widely accepted, albeit highly contested term, which came to replace previous terminologies, operating with notions such as the « Third World » or « developing countries ». All these concepts refer to imaginary geographies projected on real regions and countries, expressing distance from what is sometimes called the West, or the Global North. World system theory finds more useful to differente between the « core » and the « periphery », pointing out that the real difference separating these locations is not geography but power – economic power that translates into political, military and cultural dominance. The question that this video raises is that of universality. To what extent is the experience of disability independent of the socio-political context of the lives that flesh and blood disabled subjects live? It might be both theoretically and politically useful not to take for granted the universal applicability of the vocabulary, the theoretical apparatus and the presumptions inherent in mainstream Western liberal ideas of disability justice. The clip offers arguments to support the agenda of « decolonizing disability » by proposing an inversion of knowledge flows. It suggests that the disability movement in the North has a lot to learn from disabled people living in the Global South. Read More

The order of sequences:

  • Pademba Road
  • International Disability Day (IDD), 2010
  • House of Jesus
  • The Peace Project
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Contemporary forms of violence

This piece of the series points at the historical and casual continuity between different forms of social suffering, supporting the argument that violence suffered by the Sierra Leonean poor, far from being random, is caused by global structural forces. If there is a noticeable continuity between the pre-war and the post-war suffering, it is probably because the violent structures that maintain distress have not changed fundamentally, despite the numerous and spectacular regime changes since 1961 (the year of Independence). The concept of structural violence helps understand two complementary relations. On the one hand, behind the brutal individual acts of violence characterizing the war, it reveals the un-authored, faceless violence of an equally brutal economic system. On the other hand, it reintroduces human agency into economy, showing the role of flash-and-blood political actors in authoring or reiterating narratives that set the direction for the seemingly depersonalized, nefarious movements of the market. Read More

The order of sequences

  • Expert interview: a Sierra Leonean economist gives a historic account of the factors leading to the war
  • Manish gives a personal account of his experiences during the war
  • Expert interview about the post war peace-building
  • Disability Forum organized by UNIPSIL: contrasting visions of existing forms of suffering
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