(Re-)constructing Disability through Research: Methodological Challenges of Intersectional Research in Informal Urban Settlements

Julian Walker, Dr Ignacia Ossul Vermehren
May 17, 2021
Case Studies and Reports

Book Chapter from Inclusive Urban Development in the Global South 

Part 3 Mapping the space of possibility for just urban development
12 (Re-)constructing disability through research

Methodological challenges of intersectional research in informal urban settlements

This chapter discusses the inherent methodological tensions in doing intersectional research around disability in informal urban settlements. On the one hand, this requires methods which respect the agency of research participants in defining their own identities and portray the complex and intersectional nature of urban dwellers’ lives. On the other hand, taking the singular category of disability as an entry point can serve important functions: revealing systematic inequalities around disability, and; acting as the basis for collective mobilisation on disability rights. We reflect on how research methods can solidify, impose, challenge, or politicise categories such as ‘disability’ and explore ways of doing intersectional research, highlighting the potential of strategically sequencing categorical with anti-categorical approaches, using the case of a research project in Indonesia and Sierra Leone. This project wove both categorical and anti-categorical methods through a range of tools such as a quantitative survey, photovoice, and a textile banner making workshop. We make the case that the category of ‘disabled’, in a context of urban informality, is not enough to understand participants’ priorities, showing the need to work critically, not only with identity categories, but through them, and to engage in practices of solidarity amongst residents.