Challenging ‘normalcy’: possibilities and pitfalls of paralympic bodies
The Paralympic Games is celebrated in the mainstream media in line with the vision of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) ‘to enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world.’ In this paper we explore the degree to which the flagship of parasport has acted as a catalyst for an enhanced social and cultural understanding of disabled embodiments. Drawing upon a Foucauldian conceptualisation of biopower in connection with Haraway’s articulation of the cyborg, we highlight how hybrid bodies inevitably fail to promote embodied difference because they constitute, in and of themselves, a product of ‘normalising’ technology. In the light of critiques, such as that of the sporting supercrip, we argue that the heroic glorification of Paralympic cyborgs further amplifies the inadequacy of non-cyborg disabled bodies, whose impairments cannot be ‘compensated for’ by movement technologies. Ultimately, this paper is a call to reflect upon how parasport culture can enhance its ability to deliver the empowerment ideal encapsulated within its vision.
Keywords: Foucault; Paralympic; Sporting Bodies; Supercrip; Cyborg Technology.