A social climbing world. Impaired corporeality and the meaning contents of physical activity
Not peer reviewed
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This project is a sociological investigation of meaning experiences in persons with physical impairments who engage in physical activity.
A group of climbers with impairments has been studied through participant observation and individual interviews. This has been point of departure for an explorative investigation that has built especially on the connection between corporeality and the social dimension. The comprehensive realm of meaning which the climbers experience in relation with their activities, is denoted as the social climbing world. In the investigation, the bearing structures of this ‘province of meaning’ are revealed and analysed.
The study is a contribution to disability research in general, and more specifically to the branch that has been called a ‘sociology of impairment’.
The methodological approach is grounded theory. The theoretical perspective is phenomenologically oriented sociology. During the encounters with the empirical material, and inspired by the body schema concept of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, corporeal-social meaning has been constructed as a sensitizing concept. The perspectives of Alfred Schütz have been used in the handling of the empirical material in accordance with the phenomenological perspective.
According to the study, persons with impairments who engage in physical activity may experience dimensions of meaning where the impairments are not “relevant” - this realm of meaning is denoted as the special game. A central finding is that there seems to be a tendency that the impairments are still being brought in when these meaning experiences are to be represented. This is understood as colonization, and is assumed to be the result of a certain prevailing rehabilitation discourse that is embedded in common culture, and that forms the ways one thinks and talks about the relation between impairment and physical activity.
Within its own field of study - the intersection between impairment and conducting of physical activity - the investigation thereby serves to widen the understanding of the mechanisms that are involved in the creating and sustaining of difference between people with impairments and non-impaired. In turn, by revealing such mechanisms, the project can also contribute in the promoting of social acknowledgement and inclusion opposite people with impairments.