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The construction of 'intellectual disability' in Ecuador: From the lack of a sense to a matter of development

Hilda Beatriz Miranda-Galarza, Leeds University


The idea of 'intellectual disability' in an Andean country is commonly understood and observed through generalized assumption about Latin America as a homogenous region. Historical, economic, political and cultural analyses have tended to perpetuate the notion that Latin America is a unified body of nations with common roots. However, there are important cultural differences and social experiences in each country and locale, that give rise to particular interpretations of specific concepts and 'intellectual disability' is an important example. Based on data gained through extensive field work and the collection of stories of family life, and one case study in particular, this presentation will describe and explain the establishment of six elements that shape common understandings of 'intellectual disability' in Ecuador. It will be argued that significant institutional bodies: church, state, media, NGOs, academia and family, generate embodied discourses that become the raw material for policies and strategies of development that renders social inclusion strategies ineffective as they pay little attention to specific historical, cultural and social phenomena. As a result, disabled people are subjected to bigoted negative stereotyping underpinned by diagnostic categories sanctioned by official and institutionalized practices. It is discussed that a comprehensive exploration of the social construction of the concept 'intellectual disability' is needed that generates a critical account of a conceptual framework that includes texts and contexts within the complexity of the post-colonial structures of Ecuadorian society. This paper aims to provide the first steps in the development of such an account.

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