This film tells the personal story behind an ethnographic fieldwork which yielded a book: Politicising Polio. Disability, Civil society and Civic Agency in Sierra Leone (Palgrave Macmillan 2020)
As all anthropological work, the book tries to say something general about the world, by addressing a particular topic. Its heroes are very poor people, who, after a deadly civil war come together, in a heroic attempt to resume life on the ruins. Most of them come from the provinces. They fled to the capital where they have no family, home or any kind of material security on which they could rely. The only resource they have is the strength they find in their collective existence. Besides poverty and the fact of being refugees in Freetown, they have something else in common: they are physically disabled.
The film, following the twists and turns of Manish’s life, inadvertently opens a door on this universe. Behind the first door we find a series of other doors, it is up to the spectator to decide which one to open. The film, just like the book, works with different layers. Beyond disability, it speaks about coloniality, neoliberal development, structural violence, housing insecurity, oppression and the resistance of the weak. The life scenes of the polio-disabled reveal the gap between the promise of a better life upheld by the government and the international community on the one hand, and the violence of the neoliberal governance unleashed by the same actors, on the other hand. The topic here is disability. The bigger story is that of the failure of the post-cold-war global democracy building project.
It follows that there are different ways of watching the film. It can be watched as a parable. But it can also be watched as a kaleidoscope showing the different faces of the same reality. And finally, it can equally be watched as a source of documented information on local manifestations of contemporary global phenomena. As such, it can be justly viewed – we believe – as pedagogical material. With this page dedicated to pedagogy we would like to facilitate its incorporation into university curricula and its inclusion amongst activist groups’ discussion topics.
This page is for the use of teachers, researchers and students.
It offers deeper insight into some topics of the film, suggesting that these could feed a critical discussion or even could constitute the content of a class.
Each topic is addressed by a series of rough-cuts and a one-pager, exploring the theoretical implications of the ethnographic material. The film sequences are short (10’ to 20’ long) so that they can easily fit into a standard class with ample time for discussion. The one-pagers contain a short statement of intention, definitions of useful theoretical concepts, tips for the discussion and a brief list of recommended further literature.
The film sequences are code-protected. Users can access the code by providing basic personal data and the reason of their interest. This is not a security measure. We are just genuinely interested in who finds this section useful. We also welcome feedbacks.