This paper offers an analysis of the documentary film, Una Vida Sin Palabras [A life without words] (2011). The film follows a short period in the lives of a campesino family living in a rural area of Nicaragua as a teacher of Nicaraguan sign language, working for a local NGO, endeavours to teach three deaf siblings how to sign. Bringing together the critical practices of Disability and Subaltern studies in the specific context of contemporary Nicaragua, the paper argues: (1) that the film ultimately re-inscribes and reinforces the subalternity of the disabled subjects it sets out to portray; and (2) that the hierarchy it produces between its object – the deaf family – and its implied educated, metropolitan audience replays some influential (but, we would argue, politically limited) critiques of the failure of the first Sandinista Government (1979-1990) and other broad based radical political movements to represent the national popular. In so doing, the paper also makes a case for the political and intellectual importance of bringing a Critical Disability Studies perspective to the field of Subaltern Studies, and argues that an engagement with the problems that are presented by this film at the level of both form and content raise some important questions for both fields of enquiry.
Disability & the Global South (DGS), 2016, Vol. 3 No. 1