Do you see what I mean? charting changing representations and receptions of the disabled body in contemporary and pop cultural performance

Hadley, Bree J. (2011) Do you see what I mean? charting changing representations and receptions of the disabled body in contemporary and pop cultural performance. In Hadley, Bree J. (Ed.) Australasian Association for Theatre Drama & Performance Studies Conference 2011, 28 June - 1 July 2011, Monash University, Melbourne, Vic. (Unpublished)

[img] Unpublished (PDF 80kB)
Draft Version.
Administrators only | Request a copy from author


The meaning of the body emerges through acts of seeing, looking and staring in daily and dramatic performances. Acts that are, as Maike Bleeker argues1, bound up with the scopic rules, regimes and narratives that apply in specific cultures at specific times. In Western culture, the disabled body has been seen as a sign of defect, deficiency, fear, shame or stigma. Disabled artists – Mat Fraser, Bill Shannon, Aaron Williamson, Katherine Araniello, Liz Crow and Ju Gosling – have attempted, via performances that co-opt conventional images of the disabled body, to challenge dominant ways of representing and responding such bodies from within. In this paper, I consider what happens when non-disabled artists co-opt images of the disabled body to draw attention to, affirm, and even exoticise, eroticise or beautify, other modalities of or desires for difference. As Carrie Sandahl has noted2, the signs, symbols and somatic idiosyncrasies of the disabled body are, today, transported or translated into theatre, film and television as a metaphor or "master trope" for every body’s experience of difference. This happens in performance art (Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s use of a wheelchair in Chamber of Confessions), performance (Marie Chouinard's use of crutches, canes and walkers to represent dancers’ experience of becoming different or mutant during training in bODY rEMIX /gOLDBERG vARIATIONS), and pop culture (characters in wheelchairs in Glee or Oz). In this paper, I chart changing representations and receptions of the disabled body in such contexts. I use analysis of this cultural shift as a starting point for a re-consideration of questions about whether a face-toface encounter with a disabled body is in fact a privileged site for the emergence of a politics, and whether co-opting disability as a metaphor for a range of difference differences reduces its currency as a category around which a specific group might mobilise a politics.

Impact and interest:

Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

ID Code: 50292
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400) > Drama Theatre and Performance Studies (190404)
Divisions: Past > Schools > Drama
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Deposited On: 15 May 2012 02:38
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2013 05:56

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page