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'Losing complexes': navigating, technology. moral careers, and mobility among disabled people in Kinshasa

Devlieger, Clara (2022) 'Losing complexes': navigating, technology. moral careers, and mobility among disabled people in Kinshasa. Africa, 92 (4). pp. 501-521. ISSN 0001-9720

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0001972022000456


In moral careers of personhood and subjectivity of people who are mobility impaired, technologies such as mobility aids can become intertwined with teleologies of personal progress. This article examines how technologies shaped and expressed personal growth and social identity among those who took part in transnational trade between Kinshasa and Brazzaville. Engaging with a particular socio-technical environment facilitates both personal movement and cross-border mobility, and therefore becomes central to the ways in which individuals present themselves as 'losing complexes' - that is, their perceived frustrations about their disability. Exchanging a stick for a crutch or a hand-cranked tricycle for a wheelchair facilitates different forms of movement and expresses how one seeks to navigate between embarrassment, pride and respectability. Mobility aids thus serve as an index of different moments in moral careers of progress and decline, while their complementarity or incompatibility with public infrastructure is instrumental in creating and disaggregating social assemblages of disabled people. Through the rise and collapse of border trade between Kinshasa and Brazzaville, I discuss how crutches, cargo tricycles, wheelchairs and ferries shaped socialities and subjectivities over the long term. Considering the role of technology problematizes analyses of moral careers of personhood as attributed by others, drawing attention to personal agency and entanglement with a socio-technical environment.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2022 14:00
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2024 01:27

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