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 Award