Research tradition pushes academics to know a lot about a little. It encourages us to have mastery of “the literature” of a given field and remain up-to-date in our discipline.
The concepts of field and discipline can be useful to us: they motivate us to read and write – to engage and communicate – within a community. These concepts come with some accountability-building angst (“Do I have mastery?”; “Am I staying up to date?”), but they also provide some comforting boundaries (“I need not worry about knowing everything – I only need to know my field.”).
Since field and discipline are effectively categories, they come with inherent challenges: where do you set the boundaries? How do you set the boundaries?
My journey to this project started along the pathway of rehabilitation – which makes complete sense given my professional background as a physiotherapist (or a physical therapist for you readers in the United States). Along the way, I was led to nearby pathways that I will call cultural disability studies and postcolonial disability studies. My work clearly has implications in these fields and I am excited to engage in them more. Despite this excitement, should I consider the boundaries of my work to include these fields?
In actually doing my research, I see that there are intersections with the fields of international development, economics, and linguistics. Here lies a challenge: I have formal training in none of these fields. Should I embrace the insights that these fields have to offer? If so, to what extent do I pursue this through partnership versus my own reading and learning?
Through my research, I learned that lihole za Bulozi understood their disability as being akin to poverty, and that help from people with resources was a promising way to improve their situation. Help can be seen as part of a Gift Economy, which is a notion that could be challenging to pursue for those of us groomed in a global neoliberal development agenda.
Phwwweeeeewww! I think that there are many roads that could be taken from here. So as I stand at the fork in the road, should I take it?