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Challenging 'normalcy': possibilities and pitfalls of paralympic bodies

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-08-25, 10:47 authored by David Howe, Carla Silva
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.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in



Volume 39




HOWE, P.D. and SILVA, C., 2017. Challenging 'normalcy': possibilities and pitfalls of paralympic bodies. South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation, 39 (1:2), pp. 189-204.


© North-West University


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



This paper was accepted for publication in the journal South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation and the definitive published version is available at http://hdl.handle.net/10520/EJC-90ab7b263. This paper appears here with the permission of the publisher.




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