Thursday, 10 March 2011

Ch1: An Imagination (and "Accessibility")

There are a few ways in which I see the idea of corporalities that I am developing here as an imagination. Let me give you an example of how this work has changed my own vision.

When I went to a new city, I would always look out of the bus/taxi windows to see the sidewalks and buildings. If they were high, they would scare me, and I would wonder how I was possibly going to get around if I couldn't get up the steps? If they were low, or there were ramps, I would feel elated and confident: I could take these steps! I'd be able to go where I wanted!

What I was seeing was accessibility in very personal terms: but I understood accessibility to be a purely physical matter. I was calculating the mechanics of whether I could physically get up or down some steps or a flight of stairs, and sometimes looking enviously and people who go up steps two at a time.

The imagination I am proposing is that these physical perspectives are true and important but not unique. It's not just the steps that are important: it's the people there and the ways they do or do not help one get in and out; and it's the alternatives available to going to that place.

We're going to navigate medical categories of disease, the physical properties of people's bodies and their environments: we need to find a way of talking about them that takes them seriously but that is nimble enough to keep up with the number of ways people in practice are doing things.

My research takes the experiences of people with diverse corporalities and tries to use them creatively. From an individual experience we find things that are suggestive about corporalities other people are involved in. While my principal subjects are chumbados, the ideas I develop are not meant to be restricted to them.

This discussion is carried out in practice when we compare the difficulties of access in Rio de Janeiro to other ways of thinking about it.

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