Principal Investigators Publications

Cripping the Dis§abled Body: Doing the Posthuman Tango in, through and around Sport

Abstract: In this article we elucidate our understanding of the utility of a particular posthumanist lens to expose the fragility of compulsory ablebodiedness. Compulsory ablebodiedness is a central tool of crip theory that shows us how society reproduces disability as an expression of an ableist ideology. This positions those perceived as having ‘less-than-able’ bodies and minds as subaltern. Adopting our methodological position from crip theory, we explore how dis§abled bodies are co-produced along with the environments in which they pursue sport. Interpreting ethnographic data with, in, and around dis§abled bodies, we examine their lived realities and performed identities as biopolitical assemblages that are, at one and the same time, both subject and object in a state of what we term complex dis§able embodiment. The article begins by acknowledging the existence of disablism while also exploring the ideology of ableism, which leads to the social marginalisation of nonnormative bodies. We then articulate dis§ability as a choregraphed tango in which bodies and their environments are co-constituted, before cripping ableism in and through three manifestations of dis§abled sporting bodies. The end goal is to facilitate the celebration of nonnormativity as a positive expression of the plurality of human existence.

Howe, P. D and Silva, C. F. (2021) ‘Cripping the Dis§abled Body: doing the posthuman tango, in through and around sport’, Somatechnic, Vol. 11(2) 139–156. 

Parenting Special Olympians: an agenda for ethnographic engagement

Abstract: The role of parents has always been instrumental for their children’s initial engagement in sport. For athletes with intellectual and developmental disability (IDD), the role of a parent gains added significance. In this paper we argue that because of the significance of parents we need to better understand the culture(s) surrounding the rearing of children and the role the Special Olympic movement (SO) can play in this process. This paper is a call for ethnographic accounts of parental culture(s) in and around SO. To support our claim for the use of ethnographic methods, we first briefly outline the qualitative literature regarding parenting children with IDD. This is followed by an exploration of literature on parents and the SO’s potential to facilitate inclusion. Ultimately, we outline our vision for an ethnographic research program to capture the many and varied overlooked voices and actions of parents in this distinctive cultural environment.

Howe, P. D and Silva, C. F. (2021) ‘Parenting Special Olympians: an agenda for ethnographic engagement’, Sport and Society: Culture, Commerce, Media, Politics. 

Sliding to Reverse Ableism: An Ethnographic Exploration of (Dis)ability in Sitting Volleyball

Abstract: This paper illuminates the potential of diversely embodied sporting cultures to challenge ableism, the ideology of ability. Ableism constructs the able body as conditional to a life worth living, thus devaluing all those perceived as ‘dis’-abled. This hegemonic ideology develops into a ‘logic of practice’ through a cultural appropriation of body’s lived complexity, by reducing it to symbolic dichotomies (able/disabled). The path to challenge ableism is then to restore body’s complexity, by turning attention toward its lived embodied existence. Drawing upon an ethnographic study of a sitting volleyball (SV) community, we condense multiple data sources into a sensuous creative non-fiction vignette to translate the physical embodied culture of the sport. In exploring SV physicality through the ethnographic vignette, it is our intention to activate the readers’ own embodiment when interpreting and co-creating this text. By placing the reader in the lived reality of playing SV, we hope that the potential of this physical culture to destabilize engrained ableist premises becomes apparent. Ultimately, our goal is to promote a shift from ableism towards an appreciation and celebration of differently able bodies. This cultural shift is crucial for long lasting social empowerment for people with disabilities.

Silva, C. F. and Howe, P. D. (2019) ‘Sliding to Reverse Ableism: An Ethnographic Exploration of (Dis)ability in Sitting Volleyball,’ Societies 2019, 9, 41;

The Social Empowerment of Difference: The Potential Influence of Para sport.

Abstract: In this paper, we explore the significance of parasport in highlighting an emancipatory understanding of difference and enhancing social empowerment. By illuminating the influence of ableist ideology upon people with impairments we draw upon the field of disability studies. We ultimately argue that rather than being supressed, difference should be recognised and valued in parasport practices and ideologies, leading to a pluralist culture, in which further and wider social emancipation can be grounded. Acceptance of difference is an absolute and essential precondition for parasport cultures to promote positive social change for people with disabilities.

Silva, C. F. and Howe, P. D. (2018) ‘The Social Empowerment of Difference: The  Potential Influence of Parasport’ Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America. Vol. 29(2): 397-408.