THE NON-SEEING BODY – CONTACT AND CONFLICT IN THE ENCOUNTER OF THE SIGHTED AND THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED PERSONS
This article analyses the conflict situations arising during the contact between sighted and non-sighted people and contributes to the understanding of the state of not seeing. The text outlines the policies related to people who have lost their sight, drawing attention to various topics in regard to the blind body such as: naming, contact and conflict, social norms of perception, instrumentalizing disability as a barrier to communication, orientation training, and mobility. The paper discusses the difficulties and the possible solutions faced by the field researcher when working with the visually impaired. It considers the application of various methods of social anthropology, such as observation, sensory ethnography, and autoethnography, to such a specific research situation. The conflicts arising from the interaction between sighted and blind people are also refracted in front of the bodily experience of the researcher falling into a particular mediating position. The paper presents examples from everyday communication with visually impaired persons and from my training as an orientation and mobility instructor at the “National Centre for Rehabilitation of the Blind” – Plovdiv. As a result of the analysis, the concept of the ” non-seeing body” is introduced as an opportunity to equalize the positions in communication and overcome the conflicts arising from the contact between the sighted and the visually impaired persons.
Keywords: non-seeing body, contact, conflict, sighted, blind, sensory ethnography, autoethnography