Kathryn Eliza Williamson

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Washington U.

Grant number

Gr. 10276

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Williamson, Kathryn (Washington U., St. Louis) "After Zika: Disability, Potentiality, and Care among Afro-Brazilian Mothers of Children with Congenital Zika Syndrome in Bahia, Brazil"

This project will study women’s caregiving for children with congenital Zika syndrome (CZS) in Bahia, Brazil. The fallout of the 2015-16 ZIKV pandemic reverberates in the lives of thousands of Brazilian children and their families, especially in Brazil’s impoverished Northeast region. The majority Afro-descendant state of Bahia has the highest number of confirmed cases of CZS, and Afro-Brazilian mothers are the primary caregivers for their multiply disabled children. Challenging grim prognoses and narratives casting their children as a ‘lost generation,’ Bahian mothers mobilize a wide range of therapeutic technologies, expertise, and social support resources to help their children reach their maximum developmental potential. They labor at this care, however, under the weight of Brazil’s collapsing healthcare system, economic austerity, the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, and perduring social inequality. How does maternal care enact disabled children’s embodied potential, and how does this caregiving impact mothers’ own wellbeing? I will follow a group of mothers for 36 months as they care for disabled children in the wake of Zika and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Building on anthropologies of care, disability, and therapeutic technologies, this project will reveal how habilitative care is shaped by and embodied in contexts of structural violence.