Inaccessible Accessibility: An Ethnographic Account Of Disability And Globalization In Contemporary Russia Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Hartblay, Cassandra
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • Based on over twelve months of fieldwork in Russia, this dissertation explores what an ethnographic approach offers disability studies as a global, interdisciplinary, justice-oriented field. Focused on the personal, embodied narratives and experiences of five adults with mobility impairments in the regional capital city of Petrozavodsk, the dissertation draws on methods including participant observation, ethnographic interviews, performance ethnography, and analysis of public documents and popular media to trace the ways in which the category of disability is reproduced, stigmatized, and made meaningful in a contemporary postsoviet urban context. In tracing the ways in which concepts of disability and accessibility move transnational and transculturally as part of global expert cultures, I argue that Russian adults with disabilities expertly negotiate multiple modes of understanding disability, including historically and culturally rooted social stigma; psychosocial, therapeutic, or medicalized approaches; and democratic minority group citizenship. Considering the array of colloquial Russian terms that my interlocutors used to discuss issues of access and inaccess in informal settings, and their cultural antecedents, I suggest that the postsoviet infrastructural milieu is frequently posited as always opposed to development and European modernity. I draw on personal history narratives to relate how people with disabilities experienced the shifting discourses of human rights, democracy, and strategies of integration during the postsoviet transition of the 1990s through Putin's reconsolidation in the 2010s. The final section of the dissertation relates how adults with mobility impairments who came of age during the postsoviet transition years enact Russian citizenship and assert social worth in the context of an art therapy group, through online social networks, and in kinship and gender relations. This work contributes to cultural and medical anthropology, to the ethnography of postsocialism and NGO culture, and to the establishment of a robust anthropology of disability.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Estroff, Sue
  • Chua, Jocelyn
  • McRuer, Robert
  • Escobar, Arturo
  • Rivkin-Fish, Michele
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
  • Russian Federation, Russia
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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