Disability Embodied Connectivities: Ancient Imaginings, Contemporary Navigations

A/Prof. Karen Soldatic1

1Western Sydney University, Parramatta, Australia

Ancient journeys of travel and trade have been at the forefront of the popular imaginary and the ways in which cultures, peoples and sociality have been described, analysed and imagined.  Often these imaginaries seek to distil socio-cultural differentiation, disparate regimes of cultural embodied practices, and divergent imaginaries of conflict. Albeit, throughout these discursive constructions of ancient paths and navigations, socio-cultural representations have rarely explored the interpretative narratives disability embodiment that are shared practices of socio-cultural practices and diffused across the region through ancient maritime journeys.  This paper draws together the work of Gartrell (Cambodia), Kandasamy (Sri Lanka) and Thohari (Indonesia) to illustrate the critical significance of ancient maritime connectivities in forging new imaginaries of disability research that remain central to globalised relations of bodies, peoples and trade.  The paper will suggest that a more nuanced, rigorous and engaged navigational analysis of disability is necessary to understand the diffusion of socio-cultural representations across the region, inform analysis of the continuum of divergent and diverse socio-cultural representations and finally, to navigate new paths of development inclusive of disabled people.


Karen Soldatic, is Associate Professor, Institute for Culture & Society, School of Social Sciences, Western Sydney University. Her research largely focuses on disability in the global south and post-colonial contexts and draws upon her extensive applied experience as a development worker and policy analyst. She has worked in Cambodia, Sri Lanka and is a founding member of the Australia Indonesia Disability and Advocacy Network (AIDRAN – Secretary, 2017-2019) and the International Executive Editor of the international journal Disability & the Global South.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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