We are really excited to initiate (courtesy of GCRF AHRC funding) this interdisciplinary collaboration between the Universities of Exeter and Namibia, the National Federation of People with Disabilities in Namibia (NFPDN) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) to explore religio-cultural narratives of embodiment and disability in Namibia. We are going to be running three workshops throughout the year that will bring together scholars of disability, religion, and culture from the UK and across Southern Africa. The first will be held in April 2020 in the capital Windhoek and will be themed on ‘Experiences of Disability’. The second will be held in June 2020 at the ELCIN head offices in the North of the country and will be on ‘Disability, Religion and Culture’. The third workshop will be held at The University of Namibia (UNAM) in December 2020 to coincide with International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3) and will be themed on ‘Challenging Disability Marginalisation in Namibia’.
The project will seek to document lived experiences of physical and mental illness in Namibia alongside church responses and develop an educational package based on biblical and local cultural resources that tackles marginalising discourses. Given its use to address social injustices in Southern Africa, Contextual Bible Study has been chosen as an appropriate methodological approach to complement disability studies in a context where 90% of the population is Christian. The network will exchange knowledge and collaborate further on four themes: (a) collating and foregrounding impoverishing experiences of disability; (b) understanding challenges and priorities from the perspective of the disabled and their advocates; (c) mapping and interrogating religious and cultural narratives of inclusion/exclusion; (d). addressing religious and cultural narratives of inclusion/exclusion in order to promote inclusivity, equality and diversity and, thereby, to maximise potential for development. Members of the network will foster Namibian-centred approaches to the promotion of equality and diversity, avoiding the pitfalls of importing Western approaches to embodied diversities.