STUDY DAY – Medical Anthropology & Disability Ethnographic perspectives

University of Perugia, -, -, Italy.


The Medical Anthropology & Disability group (MA&D) invites proposals for 20-minute papers as part of a study day on medical anthropology and disability to be held on November 8, 2019, at the University of Perugia (Italy), Department of Philosophy, Social, Human and Formation Sciences (FISSUF). Papers may be delivered in Italian or in English. We would like to collect contributions about the results of theoretical and ethnographic reflections on the topic. To propose your contribution, you are asked to send the title and an abstract of the proposal (max. 250 words) to the e-mail address by September 20, 2019. Confirmation of acceptance of the proposal will be sent by October 1, 2019. Abstracts should probe issues related to disability, on the basis of the questions arising here below.

The MA&D group developed from the meeting of men and women researching in an anthropological framework about the subject of disability, after the 2nd National Convention of the Italian Society of Medical Anthropology (SIAM) held in Perugia in June 2018, entitled “An anthropology for understanding, for acting, for being engaged: The lesson of Tullio Seppilli”. Through study and research, the group intends to enhance the space of action of anthropological theory and practice within the field of disability. The perspectives of medical anthropology that we pursue do not have the intention of re-medicalizing or anthropo-medicalizing the issue of disability, but instead evoke a critical-political anthropology of the body, which is dialogical and experimental, focused on the processes of embodiment of well-being and, therefore, of health. Disability emerges as a “field”, in terms of a space of mutual recognition between social actors, and also as a contested ground regulated by relations of force. We highlight the unnatural and historically determined nature of disability. Ethnographic practice allows us to connect the most intimate experiences of “disabling” conditions with public and institutional discourses; to analyze the local effects of global processes, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by United Nations, and the documents of international agencies; to question categories such as “vulnerability”, “marginality” and above all “functioning” and “ability”.

The group’s scientific works, in their plurality, are united by the common thread of a critical and de-essentializing ethnographic gaze, attentive to the politics of disablement of some categories of social actors and those of recognition. They aim at unveiling embodied skills and denaturalize rhetorics of empowerment, autonomy and independence in contemporary neo-liberal societies. They range from the study of developmental devices to that of active citizenship practices, from the experiences of the body in its continuous relationship with the context in which it finds itself, in the infinite possibilities opened up by insurgent practices. In the perspective outlined here, the MA&D group engages in “research with operational goals aimed at establishing self-awareness and liberation processes” (Tullio Seppilli).

The AM&D group consists of: Virginia De Silva (coordinator), Fabrizio Loce-Mandes, Massimiliano Minelli, Francesca Pistone, Giovanni Pizza, Andrea F. Ravenda, Nicoletta Sciarrino.