Competence for Citizenship

Title Competence for Citizenship: Deaf People's (Re)creation of Polities and Claim-Making Possibilities in Northern Uganda
Researcher Gitte Beckmann
Abstract This thesis, entitled “Competence for Citizenship: Deaf People’s (Re)creation of Polities and Claim-Making Possibilities in Northern Uganda,” joins a vibrant conversation in anthropological deaf studies about the perspectives, experiences, and opportunities of deaf people in countries of the Global South. Focusing on the transitions of deaf people’s possibilities to make meaningful claims within different polities, it provides unique insights into how deaf people (re)create competences for citizenship in Uganda. The thesis is based on a qualitative study among deaf people in the sub-region Acholi in Northern Uganda in a post-war context, concentrating on times of tremendous international and national political transition from the 1970s to 2016. Between 1986 and 2006, the region experienced a civil war between the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) and government forces, leading to the creation of encampments, greatly dependent on humanitarian aid, housing over 90% of the Acholi population. In 1996, the Ugandan government forced people to move into Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps, with the justification that they protected the population from the LRA. 1996 was also the year that the Ugandan disability movement reached Acholiland for the first time through programs and projects. This thesis argues that the spatial situation of encampment, together with the introduction of institutions of and for deaf people, led to an unexpected shift in deaf people’s possibilities to make meaningful claims and thus (re)create competence for citizenship. Central to this transition were the introduction and spread of Ugandan Sign Language: newly established sign-language-related networks became of major importance to extend and transform social relationships with both deaf and hearing family members, neighbors, peers, colleagues, or fellow worshippers. These networks also (re)created new qualities of relationships constituting these different polities. The theoretical perspective is based on the trifecta of Ingold’s (2011) dwelling perspective, Honneth’s (1995) recognition approach, and Isin’s (2009) concept of acts of citizenship. By highlighting the significance of different qualitative social and institutional relationships within the diverse polities deaf people became part of, this thesis calls for a critical debate about multidimensional approaches to enhance the lives of people with disabilities in addition to the still-dominant rights-based approach for people with disabilities, including deaf people.
Supervision Prof. Dr. Mareile Flitsch, University of Zurich
Funding source(s) Universität Zürich (position pursuing an academic career), North-South Cooperation at the University of Zurich, Bundesprogramm Chancengleichheit
In collaboration with Prof. Dr. Susan Reynolds Whyte, University of Copenhagen, Dr. Herbert Muyinda, Makerere University
Duration of Project Jul 2009 to Jun 2015