AAA Annual Meeting Program

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Paper Information:
This paper may be of particular interest to:  Practicing and Applied Anthropologists     Students
Type: Paper
Paper Title: TRANSGRESSIVE DISABLEMENT: THE DISRUPTIVE POLITICS OF ADAPTIVE ATHLETICS IN TUCSON, ARIZONA AND CUENCA, ECUADOR
Author: NICHOLAS RATTRAY (University of Arizona)   
Date/Time: Wed., 9:15 PM
Co-Author(s): NICHOLAS RATTRAY (University of Arizona) 
Abstract: Athletes involved in adaptive sports challenge narratives of disability that focus solely on “special needs” or accommodations through their creative use of technology. In refashioning athletic equipment and facilities to account for bodily difference, disabled athletes expose the exclusionary practices of mainstream sports and respond to narratives of disability that emphasize lack, inability, or tragedy. This paper compares the subjectivities of adaptive athletes in two sociocultural locales – Tucson, Arizona and Cuenca, Ecuador – in shaping understandings of embodied mobility and contesting dominant ideologies about gender and disability. Using ethnographic interviews and participation observation with athletes involved in wheelchair rugby in Cuenca and wheelchair basketball in Tucson, I explore the ways in which the athlete subject position challenges discourses about bodily difference. I argue that each group is closely tied into the circulation of artifacts like wheelchairs and the narratives of disability that accompany them through their use of creative technologies and modified athletic facilities. Through transgressive action based on sport performances, both groups have developed unique strategies for disrupting practices of exclusion and subverting received messages about the meanings of dependency versus independent living. While the Tucson athletes enjoy a high level of financial resources and strong institutional support, their impact in the wider community is limited. In Cuenca, wheelchair athletes have been able to strongly impact local perceptions of disability through media exposure and independent living. I suggest that adaptive athletes can galvanize disability politics and lend insight into the social production of local hierarchies of impairment.

Program Number: 1-0845
Session Title: DISABILITY CIRCULATIONS: FORUM ON THE EFFECTS OF DISABILITY ON CULTURAL INNOVATION, TECHNOLOGICAL INVENTION, AND SOCIAL PARTICIPATION FOR ALL MEMBERS OF SOCIETIES
Session Sponsor: National Association for the Practice of Anthropology
Session Date/Time: Wed., 8:00 PM-9:45 PM
Organizer(s): LAKSHMI FJORD (University of California-San Francisco) 
Chair(s): LAKSHMI FJORD (University of California-San Francisco)  
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