Historiography of Disablement and the South Asian Context: The Case of Shah Daula’s Chuhas

  • Shilpaa AnandEmail author
Part of the Bioarchaeology and Social Theory book series (BST)


Disability history’s emergence as a significant and robust sub-field of disability studies has resulted in the conceptualizing and framing of disability histories of South Asia with concepts and chronological frames that are familiar to Anglo-American and European contexts. While there have been attempts to historicize disability in keeping with context-specific developments, these histories appear not to have escaped orientalist structures of focalization. The phenomenon of ‘Shah Daula’s chuhas’, a category of microcephalic youth prevalent in the Indo-Pakistan region between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, now documented as disability history , serves as a test case with which to explicate the dominance of normatively Western historical frames in non-Western histories. Drawing on a close reading of literary narratives based on the chuhas phenomenon, the fading traces of another disabling condition, female infertility, are uncovered. Female infertility, it is suggested, that remains outside the narrative and ‘emplotment’ of dominant disability history, in fact enables us to access context-sensitive histories of disablement as well as culturally different concepts of corporeal difference . Acting as an advisory to the recently emerged field, bioarcheology of disability, this paper argues for a critical reading of existing histories and makes a case for culturally contextual histories that may reveal not only historical social responses to familiar disabling conditions, but concepts of corporeal difference particular to those contexts.


Disability history South Asia Corporeal difference Cultural context 



This paper benefitted immensely from the comments and suggestions of the two anonymous reviewers. I am deeply indebted to their close reading and critical insights on historical methodology.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English, School of Languages, Linguistics and IndologyMaulana Azad National Urdu UniversityHyderabadIndia

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