Gender, technology and the ablenational Paralympic body politic

2019-07-15T08:56:37Z (GMT) by Emma Pullen Michael Silk
The Paralympic games is a pedagogic, pervasive, political, powerful, and ‘popular’ cultural site where the heightened visibility of disability bring into being specific forms of disability as they articulate within cultures, institutions and practices. Regarded as a ‘positive charge’ by Stuart Hall, the Paralympics intends to challenge the devalued disabled body politic of typical disability representation. This has been stimulated by the entry of Channel 4 as the UK Paralympic rights holders in 2012 which has seen greater media coverage of certain technologically enhanced cyborgian parasport bodies and an emerging celebrity / sexualized disability culture. This contemporary moment in disability representation provides a compelling space in which to (re-)address the gendered nature of hyper-visible Parasport hybrids, their potential to disrupt ‘normative’ relations of power, and, the wider impact on disability politics in a neoliberalised culture of widening and affective circuits of bodily inclusion and control. Drawing on an integrated content and textual analysis of 90 h of Paralympic programming from the Rio 2016 Games we highlight two emblematic segments so as to enhance our appreciation of contemporary disabled politics as it intersects with gender, technology and nation. We analyse these emblematic segments at the intersection of critical disability studies, cultural studies and sport, using concept of ablenationalism to highlight the extent certain technological capacitated parasport bodies perform gendered representational work as part of the seductive apparatus of neoliberal micro-governance suggestive of an emerging ecology of disability-gender relations. In doing so, we highlight the Paralympic contradictions and interrogate the assumed ‘positive charge’ of the contemporary (re-)presentation of disability.