Exploring Conceptualisations of Disability: A Talanoa approach to Understanding Cultural Frameworks of Disability in Samoa

Catherine Picton, Mike Horsley, Bruce Allen Knight


Purpose: The concepts of disability are explored from a Samoan cultural frame. The impact of disability conceptualisations on identity development and cultural inclusion was assessed through the Samoan language. The study also evaluated the extent of endorsement of global policy initiatives at a local level.

Methods:  Through facilitating a Talanoa approach, which is a rich cultural tradition of sharing knowledge, space emerged for dialogue around the lived experiences of members of the disability community in Samoa.

Results: Incongruous conceptualisations of disability were identified as a contributing factor in the persistence of stigmatising attitudes and beliefs.  Borrowing concepts and terms from moral, medical, and social disability models, this disparity of conceptualisation is reflected in Samoan disability terminology.  It was also found that while global policy initiatives are generally politically embraced, they engage more effectively with the community when they are underpinned by Samoan cultural ontologies.

Conclusion:  The findings suggest that multiple ideologies regarding rights, capabilities and experiences, challenge the development of identity, self-worth, and inclusion.  There is significant value in merging cultural concepts with a social disability model framework. It is important to future development that people with disability can express a sense of cultural identity without risking the right to inclusion and equality.


Culture; identity; disability; conceptualisation; stigmatisation; terminology

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5463/dcid.v27i1.502

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