Navigation Links
Tracing the Paralympic movement's 'freak show' roots
Date:8/29/2012

(Edmonton) Danielle Peers has lived the thrill and pressure, revelled in competition and brought home hardware from the Paralympic Games. But beneath the cheers, the University of Alberta researcher questions whether the Paralympic movement is as empowering as its benevolent image.

The former Paralympian bronze medallist and women's wheelchair basketball world champion says the history of the Paralympic movement dates to the freak shows of the 19th centuryand even today's modern games are a spectacle of curiosity that reinforces disability.

"The Paralympics is one of those very few times where we actually have disabilities visible in our culture, where people take notice, but we're not taking full advantage of the opportunity," said Peers, a PhD candidate and Trudeau Scholar in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation.

Peers comes to the issue with experience playing stand-up and wheelchair basketball at high levels. She played wheelchair basketball for four years before being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, which allowed her to play in the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games.

"The ways in which we often talk about and show the Paralympics reproduces this idea that disability is a tragic problem in people's bodies, not a structural problem in our communities. My life and the lives of others I know with disabilities are full of structural difficultiesyou can't find housing, it's hard to find a jobbut our lives are also full of pleasure and joy."

Peers' historical analysis of the power relationship between disability sport organizers and athletes, Patients, Athletes, Freaks: Paralympism and the Reproduction of Disability, was published in the August issue of Journal of Sport & Social Issues in the lead-up to the 2012 London Paralympics.

Peers contends the movement avoids criticism and celebrates its able-bodied leaders in the most favourable light, often erasing contributions from athletes.

British neurosurgeon Sir Ludwig Guttmann is often hailed as the "father of the Paralympic movement" for his work at the end of the Second World War, in which he used sport as therapy for veterans with spinal injuries. In fact, his therapies were compulsory, regimented and institutionalized to "rescue these men, women and children from the scrapheap," as Guttmann put it, and return them to "a life worth living."

Freak show

Early competitions were spectacles, with athletes showcased alongside other marvels of science in the tradition of 19th-century freak shows. Later, as competition was co-ordinated by formalized organizing bodies, athletes were differentiated and sorted into classes such as blind or paraplegic under the guise of fairness, which Peers notes further objectified disabilities and impairments and led to a rise in disability sport expertsfurthering paternalistic relationships with athletes.

"If you look at books about the Paralympics, they have all these pictures of athletes and don't name any of them," Peers said, noting the information is all about organizers. "You can't imagine that existing in the Olympic context, but in the context of the histories they tell about the Paralympics, it's irrelevant who athletes are."

In the 1980s, disability sports such as wheelchair racing were incorporated into the Olympic Games as demonstration sports, but more for curiosity value. Peers pointed to Atlanta in 1996 as evidence of the stark differences in the treatment of athletes.

"After the Olympics closed, the media left, they took down all the signs, the cafeteria did not have enough food, there was no toilet paper for the athletes to usethey just gutted the space and left the Paralympic athletes to fend for themselves."

When Paralympians threatened to boycott the closing ceremonies, athlete leaders were removed to quell trouble.

"There was a real paternalism and real quashing of any kind of revolt or resistance that the athletes have done to try and improve the games for themselvesthe games that they love."

As the games have grown in size and scope, athletes are not treated as second-class citizens to the same extent as before, said Peers. But in terms of silencing dissent and involving athletes in the direction of their sports, "it's stayed the same or got worse."

"It's only through writing and thinking critically that we have a hope of making changes for the better."


'/>"/>
Contact: Bryan Alary
bryan.alary@ualberta.ca
780-492-0436
University of Alberta
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Canadian researcher is on a mission to create an equal playing field at the Paralympic Games
2. Molecule movements that make us think
3. NIHs PEERx for teens to be showcased at Rx Drug Abuse Summit
4. Wellesley study shows income inequality a key factor in high US teen births
5. Invasive heart test being dramatically overused, Stanford study shows
6. Novel compound demonstrates anti-leukemic effect in zebrafish, shows promise for human treatment
7. Lung Cancer Screening Might Pay Off, Analysis Shows
8. Nonsurgical Method to Measure Brain Pressure Shows Promise
9. BMC study shows diverting passengers to elevators could help reduce falls at Logan Airport
10. Study Shows New Option for Kids With Tough-to-Treat Leukemia
11. Politics May Get in the Way of Empathy, Research Shows
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/6/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... May 06, 2016 , ... ... of a master charity program created to support and assist the people of ... days, working closely with nonprofit organizations and community leaders. Their desire is to ...
(Date:5/6/2016)... York (PRWEB) , ... May 06, 2016 , ... A wide variety of national pet ... Events Home, Garden and Safety Media Showcase Wednesday, May 18 from noon to 8 p.m. ... offers a sneak peek at new and established home, garden, outdoor and safety pet products ...
(Date:5/6/2016)... ... May 06, 2016 , ... Online HR/benefits platforms offer a range of benefits ... traditional brokers and health plans. “ The Rapid Emergence of Online Benefits Firms: Strategies ... Services, Inc. (AIS), will offer an accurate picture of online benefits today, and the ...
(Date:5/6/2016)... ... May 06, 2016 , ... Expert mattress researchers ... Since launching in September, 2014 Sleepopolis has resided at Sleepopolis-mattress-reviews.com . The ... pillows, sheets, mattress toppers, bed frames, and more. , Founder and Editor-in-Chief Derek ...
(Date:5/6/2016)... ... 2016 , ... This Mother’s Day kicks off the start of an important ... Women’s Health Week takes place May 8-May 14. , Throughout the celebration, the ... women to make their health a top priority. Women everywhere are being encouraged to ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:5/4/2016)... , May 4, 2016 According to ... Growth and Demand Forecast to 2022 - Industry Insights by ... Diagnostic Center and Others)" by P&S Market Research, the global ... in 2015, and it is expected to grow at a ... high slice type segment is expected to witness the faster ...
(Date:5/4/2016)... May 4, 2016 In ... a series of free workshops across ... requirements for Good Distribution Practices (GDP). Good ... ensures that products are consistently stored, transported and handled ... (MA) or product specification. Only a few years ago, ...
(Date:5/4/2016)... , May 4, 2016 ... of the  "Global Multiple Myeloma Market and ... their offering.       (Logo: ... Market and Competitive Landscape Highlights 2016, provides ... Multiple Myeloma epidemiology, Multiple Myeloma market valuations ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: