October 17 (Week 9): Migration and the Costs of Care

Note: Enabling Disability: Disability Studies at UT Arlington conference happens today, October 17th: 12:30-5:00 pm in Chemistry and Physics Building (CPB) 303

This week we will continue exploring the impact of industrialization on notions of disability, the “fit citizen” or colonial subject, migration patterns, and experiences of people with disabilities and their families.

Please use the comment function to post two discussion questions about this week’s readings by Thursday at 2 pm.  Focus on intriguing or controversial points in the readings that you think will spark discussion.  Strong discussion questions are open-ended, engage with major points in author(s)’ arguments, and are not factual in nature.

Please also post one of the following:

  • a short description (1-3 sentences) of your “muddiest point,” that is, what important point of the author’s argument did you have trouble grasping
  • your “most interesting connection” for this week’s reading

If you refer to a specific point or quote in one of the readings, please provide the author and page number.



1)     Julie Livingston, Debility and the Moral Imagination in Botswana (Indiana University Press, 2005)

2)     Natalia Molina, “Medicalizing the Mexican: Immigration, Race, and Disability in the Early-Twentieth-Century United States,” Radical History Review 94 (Winter 2006): 22-37 (MavSpace)

2 Responses to “October 17 (Week 9): Migration and the Costs of Care”

  1. Dalton Boyd says:

    Question 1: Julie Livingston discussed in her book how the natives of Botswana looked at and dealt with people with disabilities before, during, and after their time as a colony of Great Britain. In the beginning of the book, Livingston showed how the people of Botswana saw a difference between impairments and disabilities. Did other countries, like America, make these same distinctions between impairments and disabilities? If not then why did these other countries ignore the difference between impairments and disabilities? Why would the British change Botswana’s system of familial care when it seemed to work? Was it just a result of modernization and change in economics or did it have more to do with the idea of social control? Which system works better in the treatment of impairments and disabilities, family based care or institutional care? Livingston also looks at the strict rituals to conduct people to adulthood. Why were these rituals so strictly enforced? Was this an early precursor of Lamarckianist eugenics and could rituals such as these inspire this form of eugenics to develop in other areas of the transatlantic region?

    Question 2: Another question that could be asked is how did the change in the care of the disable in Botswana compare to other former European colonies in Africa? Did all of these colonies go through the same changes as Botswana’s care for the disabled? Were some of them better in their development of disability care or were some of them worse? Did the people of Botswana also have a period in which they saw the disabled as entertainment, similar to European freak shows of the late 19th century to early 20th century? If not then why was there a difference?

    Muddiest point: Why is it that women are often blamed for the creation of disabled children, like in Kevin Stagg’s “The Materiality of the Monstrous?”

  2. Lydia Towns says:

    1. I appreciated Livingston’s distinction between “disability” and “debility.” I found the distinction between the two, within the culture of Botswana, to be very interesting. The idea that “disability” is really just a biosocial identity that can range from conditions that are truly disabling to socially stigmatized things, such as skin color, has played a very large role it what defines a category as being disabled throughout our studies this semester. I find it interesting that in her studies, Livingston found that the culture in Botswana would, in many ways, draw a distinction between disability and debility with their elders, finding that disabling conditions brought on by age were not thought of as disabilities. Instead, they were simply seen as debilities that came with age, and that these debilities were almost a sign of status in the community.

    2. One of the things that I found most interesting in Livingston’s book is the role of women in the community. As in many other areas and time periods studied this semester, the man was the head of the house and thus the leader. However, when disability was introduced into the household the woman became the power player. By assuming the role of nurse for the disabled member of the family the woman assumed a role of authority which often included taking charge of a large portion of the family’s income for the betterment of the person being nursed. I find it very interesting that, in this way, disability proved to be empowering for the women in society. This is a reversal from many of our other readings in which the idea of disability often spilled over to include women and suppress them.

    Muddiest point:
    While I applaud the strong culture of familial care, of looking after your family members and being willing to drop everything to nurse an injured or sick family member back to health, I have to wonder if this method did not serve to exacerbate the situation. In many of the illustrations used in this book the family seems to apply a mixture of modern medicine and traditional healing methods, moving from one to the next in a seemingly random patter, never really giving the medicine time to work. On a similar note, it surprises me that a country with such a strong culture of nursing the sick would face a nursing shortage crisis and have problems with nurses be too callus or neglectful in their care of their patients.

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