Disability and Forced Migration: Critical Intersectionalities

GRECH, Shaun

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21 pp

The vast majority of the world’s displaced people are hosted in the global South, in the poorest countries in the world. This is also a space with the highest numbers of disabled people, many of who live in extreme and chronic poverty. This poverty, alongside deprivation, wars, conflict, and environmental disasters is what drives people to flee, in search of security. This includes disabled people. In spite of this, this population (disabled forced migrants) continues to be cast in a shadow, of epistemological, ontological and practical invisibility. It is hardly theorised in forced migration studies and rarely contemplated in humanitarian intervention. The lives of disabled forced migrants are cast aside in a Eurocentric disability studies that remains global North-centric and focused, while Southern contexts and histories and the geopolitics that envelope them, are forgotten or never known. Migration theory grows without the disabled person, disability studies without the migrant, and practice without the disabled migrant. In this paper, we explore the disability/forced migration nexus with a view to understanding some of the critical intersectionalities that emerge, and their implications for theory and practice. We trace elements of the forced migration trajectory, from exodus, to crossing international borders, to life in protracted refugee camps, the use of networks and smugglers, to those related to national and human security. We argue that forced migration studies, as well as humanitarian practice continue to be premised on and adopting an ableist approach focused on heteronormative productive bodies, while disability studies, with a corpus of work premised on an assumption of citizenship, has failed to critically engage with issues of sovereignty, borders and bodies that lie beyond the protection of the Nation State. In this paper, we also question and contest dominant and hegemonic frames that are historically contextualized, alongside discourses and structures that not only produce forced migration, but also serve to perpetuate the global divide and inequalities. We conclude by calling for a critical interrogation of theoretical perspectives in both forced migration and disability studies, in policy and humanitarian action, and to work towards a praxis geared towards social justice for disabled forced migrants.


Disability and the Global South (DGS), 2015, Vol. 2 No. 1

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