Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper situates cognitive disability at the intersections of long-standing anthropological interests in kinship, reproduction, and personhood. In my discussions with parents raising children with Down Syndrome in Amman, Jordan, concerns about the uncertainty of the future often circled back to questions surrounding marriage and its absence. While one woman expressed an explicit commitment to helping her young daughter growing up to fulfill the normative ideals of wife and mother, another rejected both of these possibilities for her own daughter. The parents of one young man actively disagreed about whether marriage would provide hope for their son or pain for the family, while another mother expressed ambivalence about the material costs of supporting a young couple who would presumably be unable to support themselves economically or materially. Drawing attention to the entangled processes of legitimization that link intimacy, family, and independence, this paper uses the marital projections made by family members of young people with Down Syndrome to examine the moral stakes of reproduction and the role of reproductive legitimacy in constructing adulthood in Amman today. The preemptive foreclosure of marital possibilities acutely shaped the lives of young people with Down Syndrome and their families’ visions of conceivable futures. Ultimately, this paper seeks to push the analytic of potentiality beyond biomedical negotiations into the realm of everyday disability and the kinship-based networks of care and control that informed it.