Is Being an Albino a Disability?

22 07 2008

In Tanzania people who are albinos are being killed for their body parts. Witch doctors claim they can be used to make the purchaser of said parts rich. The BBC has reported that over 30 people have been killed in Tanzania so far this year. The last was a seventh-month-old baby. In Tanzania, being an albino can lead to ostracism by family and community. There is a center for cancer treatment in Dar Es Salaam that treats albinos’ medical conditions caused by their lack of pigment, and many have left their rural homes to congregate there. However, this practice brings to mind other cultures’ fetishes with the “abnormal” and the ways in can become mysticism, even if this fetishism is often not so violent. Does the extent to which people will go to obtain albino body parts point a finger at all who have both gawked at, been drawn to, and used those who are abnormal? What does this particular instance of a culture’s belief system say about the dangers of over-emphasizing divergence from the norm?