“The Brain is a Box of Surprises”: Habilitating Bodyminds and Caring for Potential After Zika in Bahia, Brazil
This talk traces how Brazilian mothers raising children diagnosed with congenital Zika syndrome mobilize diverse therapeutic technologies to cultivate the optimal development of their children’s bodyminds—what I call habilitative care. Drawing on several years of ethnographic engagement with Afro-Brazilian families affected by the 2015-16 Zika virus epidemic in Bahia, Brazil, I show how discourses of plasticity and potential animate investments in habilitative care. I argue that mothers’ care practices enact disabled children’s potential, insisting that they are worthy of therapeutic investment. Through habilitative care, mothers contest dominant narratives that cast their children, and Black and disabled children generally, as disposable and future-less.