Crip Theory

What is the opposite of disability?
~Brian Bergen-Aurand

What we are reading now:

  1. A Body, Undone: Living on After Great Pain by Christina Crosby, 2015.
  2. Loneliness and Its Opposite: Sex, Disability, and the Ethics of Engagement by Don Kulick and Jens Rydstrom, 2015.
  3. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability by Robert McRuer, 2006.
  4. Mean Little Deaf Queer by Terry Galloway, 2009.
  5. Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out edited by Kenny Fries, 1997.


What is Crip Theory?

A strand of critical cultural analysis that, alongside ‘queer perspectives and practices’, has ‘been deployed to resist the contemporary spectacle of able-bodied heteronormativity’, as Robert McCruer (Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability, 2006) puts it. Dominant conceptions of able-bodiedness in sport are vulnerable to critique in the sense that they have often matter-of-factly assumed the ideal body to be the platform for and pinnacle of sporting excellence. The term ‘crip’ emerged in disability movements, as an adaptation and reworking of the derogatory word ‘cripple’; as McCruer states, the term’s ‘positive valences are…multiple’. Crip theory and practice entails sustained forms of coming out, and the recognition that another, more accessible world is possible in which disability is no longer the raw material against which imagined and sometimes liberationist worlds are formed. Crip theory has its own radical and critical agenda, draws much upon personalized narratives, and has generated illuminating readings of films and other popular cultural forms. It is likely that a crip-based reading of the relationship between able-bodied and disabled sport, or between the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, would be discomfiting reading for sport administrators and organizers.

~Alan Tomlinson, A Dictionary of Sports Studies