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Sam de Schutter MA

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: African History, Global History, History of the Body

Cohort/Start PhD: 2016-2017

The Global Workings of Disability in the Two Congo’s, 1960-2009
Leiden University

Project: Rethinking Disability: The Global Impact of the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981) in Historical Perspective
Promotor(es): Prof. dr. Monika Baár
Aanstelling: vanaf september 2016

My research is part of the project “Rethinking Disability: The Global Impact of the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981) in Historical Perspective”. This project aims at examining the political, societal and cultural implications of this International Year and the subsequent International Decade of Disabled Persons (1982-1993). In my own research, I will focus on how, in the second half of the 20th century, disability became a ‘global’ concern with a universal definition, how this then translated into programs and interventions aimed at the so-called ‘developing countries’ and how this global flow of ideas and actions impacted the way disability has been conceptualized and experienced locally. This will be done on the basis of two case studies: the two Congo’s, and more specifically their two capitals, Kinshasa and Brazzaville.
By examining the discourses and activities of different actors (local, national, transnational), I aim at bringing a more nuanced image of the history of disability in the ‘Global South’. Instead of thinking about this history in a dichotomous way, as either a neocolonial project exporting Western modes of thought, or purely local, authentically ‘African’ conceptions, I will approach disability as a dynamic field of negotiation, where different actors (people with disabilities, disability ‘experts’, NGOs, international organizations, etc.) propose different ways of thinking about and dealing with disability.
Ultimately, the question I want to answer is how the global flow of ideas, definitions, organizations and experts, instigated by the ‘globalization’ of disability and its framing as a human rights issue since the 1970s, has played out on the ground in concrete projects on disability in the two Congo’s.