Paralympics and the Reproduction of Tragedy : On Abjection, Aesthetics, and Attitudes

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Paralympics and the Reproduction of Tragedy : On Abjection, Aesthetics, and Attitudes

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Publication Other
Title Paralympics and the Reproduction of Tragedy : On Abjection, Aesthetics, and Attitudes
Author(s) Jönsson, Kutte
Date 2014
English abstract
Paralympics 2012 in London has been vividly described as a complete success. The media coverage was intense before and during the Games, many of the competitions were in front of a full house crowd, and some of the athletes even became celebrities. To this the British TV channel Channel 4 produced an artistically suggestive short film, entitled “Meet the Superhumans”, in order to advertise the Games. Afterwards, the legacy of the Paralympics was generally described as a real breakthrough not only for the Paralympics but also for disability sport in general. This was before the “backlash”. One year after the Games in London, the British charity organization Scope published a report in which it was claimed that the attitudes towards disabled people had not improved as a result of the attention from the Paralympics. Quite the contrary, many in the disability community said that the situation in fact had worsened due to the attention from the Paralympics. The previous well-established triumph had turned into a failure. How can one philosophically understand this? By analyzing how the Paralympic Games 2012, and the Paralympians, were portrayed in the media as well as in the film “Meet the Superhumans”, we may find some of the reasons why Paralympics turned into somewhat of a failure. Generally speaking, the pattern from how the Paralympians were publicly described, as well as how the Games were advertised, demonstrates a rather dubious attitude towards disability sport. In my presentation I will argue (1) that the general focus on disability as an inherent (and unwanted) tragedy, may contribute to patronizing attitudes towards disabled athletes; (2) In defining disability as an inherent tragedy, the Paralympians are being victimized before the public eye, which in turn means that disabled athletes can never be seen as athletes equal to abled-bodied athletes; (3) The patronizing and victimizing attitudes towards disabled athletes are fuelled by how Paralympics, and disability sport in general, are being aesthetically presented.
Swedish abstract
Paralympics 2012 i London har skildrats som en stor framgång, framför allt för handikappidrotten. Genom att analysera hur de paralympiska idrottarna porträtterades i medier och i reklam för spelen, kan man dock dra slutsatsen att spelen i någon mening var ett misslyckande. I min presentation argumenterar jag för att (1) funktionsnedsättning vanligtvis beskrivs som en inneboende tragedi, vilket bidrar till de nedlåtande attityder som handikappidrottare ofta får möta, (2) Genom att skildra funktionsnedsättning som något i sig självt tragiskt, hamnar paralympierna i en offerroll, och (3) De nedlåtande attityderna får bränsle inte minst genom hur handikappidrotten estetiskt presenteras.
Publisher ECSS
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) paralympics
disability sports
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION
Note European College of Sport : sport science around the canals, Amsterdam, Netherlands 2-5 July 2014
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