Using Disability Studies to Ground High-Quality Paralympic Research


  • Shane Kerr Loughborough University (United Kingdom)
  • P. David Howe Loughborough University (United Kingdom)


Disability studies, Paralympic studies, parasport research


This paper explores the need for a robust grounding in disability studies as the cornerstone for high quality research into the cultural significance of Paralympic sport. All too often scholars working in the broad field of Olympic studies who exploring issues related to the Paralympics have paid only lip service to the fact that disability activism and its related academic field of disability studies have something to offer. Much of the work in disability studies is grounded in substantive disciplines such as anthropology, history, politics and sociology. In this paper we will address a number of key texts in the field and highlight how grounding Paralympic research in these and similarly robust outputs, which in spite of changing fashion in nomenclature, are still of great value today. We will conclude with a call to all scholars in the field of parasport studies to pay more than a passing reference to disability studies literature in hopes that it will encourage them to be more vigorous in their critique of this distinctive sporting culture.

Author Biographies

Shane Kerr, Loughborough University (United Kingdom)

Shane Kerr is a consultant at Nielsen Sport working with top sports rights holders and brands. Shane completed his PhD at Loughborough University on the legacy of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Previously , Shane was a consultant at CSM Strategic and a teaching Fellow within Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences.

P. David Howe, Loughborough University (United Kingdom)

P. David Howe is a social anthropology of sport in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University with research interests in disability sport and physical activity cultures. David is also editor of the Routledge Book Series, Disability, Sport and Physical Activity Cultures. and holds a guest professorship at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium and adjunct professorships at Queen’s University and Western University both in Canada.