The evolving construction and conceptualisation of ‘disability’ in Bhutan

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This study – a year-long ethnographic exploration of disability and education in Bhutan – finds that two dominant discourses around ‘disability’ are entering Bhutan simultaneously: the discourse of the medical model of disability and the discourse of the social or human rights model of disability. In this paper, I argue that these two discourses are especially exposed in the Bhutanese context to be opposing forces in shaping local conceptualisation and construction of ‘disability’. By examining the Bhutan case, it can be seen that these kinds of disparate and contentious exogenous constructions of ‘disability’ occur everywhere in the world and negotiate with local constructions of ‘disability’ uneasily. Understanding the interactions of disability discourses in the Bhutanese context can help to understand the interactions of disability discourses writ large.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)820-833
Number of pages14
JournalDisability and Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 3 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Taylor & Francis.


  • Bhutan
  • anthropology
  • disability
  • globalisation
  • medical model
  • social model


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