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Beyond the Camp and the Surgery: Cochlear Implants and Complex Dependencies in India

Hall of Languages, 500

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The Indian state relates to the category of disability—and materializes itself--through the distribution, often at camps, of aids and appliances such as hearing aids, canes, and wheelchairs that are ‘make in India,’ as examples. In 2014, the state began providing cochlear implants to children living below the poverty line. This cochlear implant program reveals new directions in which the state engages with disability and introduces novel assemblages of welfare, medicine, rehabilitation, and multinational capital. In these assemblages, new relationships form between the state, multinational corporations, and  families with deaf children. These relationships stretch beyond the one-time disability camp or the one-off surgery and have resulted in opportunities for government administrators, surgeons, and rehabilitation professionals to reinvent themselves in relation to the seemingly miraculous power of cochlear implants while also producing complex dependencies for families with deaf children. Families are required to interact with, and depend on, multinational corporations to maintain the cochlear implants.

Michele Friedner is an associate professor in the department of comparative human development at the University of Chicago. She is a medical anthropologist and conducts research on deafness and disability in India.


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