An embodied approach to disability sport: the lived experience of visually impaired cricket players

  • Benjamin James Powis

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis investigates the England Visually Impaired Cricket Team, whose squad members comprise sixteen men aged 18-54, and their lived experiences' of playing visually impaired cricket. This is the first piece of research to examine elite visually impaired cricket and the first to explicitly analyse the social dynamics of any visually impaired sports team. Through an embodied theoretical approach, that accounts for the corporeal experience of impairment alongside the role of social institutions and discourse in the high performance culture of modern disability sport, this thesis establishes the significant aspects of this previously unexamined research 'site', both on and off the pitch. This study consisted of ten months of ethnographic fieldwork using participant observation and semi-structured interviews shaped by a new method of recording and eliciting data. To capture the participants' sensorial experiences of playing visually impaired cricket, 'soundscape elicitation', the process of composing auditory 'tracks' of the players' participation and then using these recordings during semi-structured interviews to prompt sensorial discussions, was utilised. This original and innovative method was central to the production of previously unexamined knowledge and is a significant methodological advancement in the wider field of sensory studies. The findings present a number of original contributions to knowledge regarding 'sporting bodies', the sensorial experiences of sport, and the construction of identity through disability sport. The participants' embodied experiences of playing visually impaired cricket reveal an alternative way of 'being' in sport and physical activity. However, it is the inescapable ocularcentric value of 'sight' that inhibits the resistive potential of the game. Instead of the presumed empowering experience, elite visually impaired cricket is disempowering for many participants due to the irreversible relationship of blind cricket institutions with mainstream cricketing bodies. Furthermore, a 'hierarchy of sight' based upon the official sight classification process emerges that highly values those players with the highest sight classifications and marginalises the blind players. All of these factors inform visually impaired cricket players’ construction of their own identities. Although many players view visually impaired cricket as a way of demonstrating their 'normality', it actually accentuates the impairment that they are attempting to dissociate from and is one of the few social situations where they are 'outed' as disabled or blind.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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