Shruti Vaidya

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10160

Approve Date

April 8, 2021

Project Title

Vaidya, Shruti (Chicago, U. of) "Interpreting Laiṅgikatā: Intellectually Disabled People, “Special” Educators, and Expertise in India"

Special educators in India present themselves as and train each other to become expert educators with privileged insights about their intellectually disabled students. In addition to teaching, special educators play a large role in the lives of intellectually disabled people by caring for them in diverse ways. In the absence of conventional communication, special educators respond to the needs of their intellectually disabled students by interpreting unconventional linguistic cues (utterances and non-linear sentences) and non-linguistic cues (actions and behaviors).These interpretations and interventions also extend to matters of laiṅgikatā -a Marathi term that originates from the root word linga, and refers to the penis. Laiṅgikatā is a term used by special educators to talk about the seemingly sexual behaviors and desires of intellectually disabled people. What counts as laiṅgikatā is constructed and redefined by special educators and based on the overt actions of intellectually disabled people. This project proposes that laiṅgikata, instead of sexuality, offers a productive lens to analyze the relational dynamic between special educators and intellectually disabled people to ask: how are intellectually disabled people’s sexual personhood and special educators’ expertise relationally produced? How is laiṅgikatā an especially significant site to relationally construct both personhood and expertise?