Botsa Katara - Reassessing the Super-crip Stereotype

Season four of the BSP Podcast continues with a paper from Botsa Katara, Durham University. The recording is taken from our 2019 Annual Conference, ‘The Theory and Practice of Phenomenology’.


ABSTRACT: The term “super-crip” can be construed as a misleading twist on the derogatory term crippled. The latter signifies the dire condition of human frailty, limitations of embodiment, and a life without possibilities, while the latter is emblematic of overcoming those limitations to such a preposterous extent that not only demonises, and annihilates the experience of living with physical disabilities but also heralds an insidious discourse of superlative athletic vigour, and prowess. This paper aims to demonstrate that to reduce the body into a functional machinery which might be repaired and augmented is to disavow the intricate mechanisms of the body-mind connect that are orientated towards intentionality, affectivity, attunement, proprioception, and kinesthesis. Under the theoretical lens of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, Gallagher’s How the Body Shapes the Mind, and Carel’s Phenomenology of Illness, this paper shall analyse of the depiction of physical impairments in literary fiction, and memoirs. Following Carel’s conception of “epistemic injustice” it shall delineate the exigent need to incorporate felt experiences of disability in the wider cultural domain, thereby promulgating an informed and empathetic approach towards disability that adheres neither to the derogatory conception of the crippled nor the superhuman creation of the super-crip.


BIO: My name is Botsa Katara, second year PhD in English literature and Medical Humanities, from Durham University. My research focuses on the depiction of impaired movement in the literary works Beckett, Coetzee, and Kelmann. I am also looking at graphic memoirs, and life writings of amputees, and prosthetics that serve as counter narratives to the contemporary culture of the ‘super-crip’. I hold a Master’s degree in Modernity and Literature from the University of Edinburgh where my thesis focussed on identity conflict, desire, and domination in cancer patients. I have worked as a trainee at a prosthesis centre in New Delhi, India, where my work centered on closely observing young amputee rehabilitation.


The ‘British Society for Phenomenology Annual Conference 2019 – the Theory and Practice of Phenomenology’ was held at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester, UK, 5 – 7 September, 2019:


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The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?

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