Body Image and Prosthetic Aesthetics: Disability, Technology and Paralympic Culture

Tamari, Tomoko. 2017. Body Image and Prosthetic Aesthetics: Disability, Technology and Paralympic Culture. Body & Society, 23(2), pp. 25-56. ISSN 1357-034X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The success of the London 2012 Paralympic not only revealed new public possibilities for the disabled, but also thrust the debates on the relationship between elite Paralympians and advanced prosthetic technology into the spotlight. One of the Paralympic stars, Oscar Pistorius, in particular became celebrated as ‘the Paralympian cyborg’. Also prominent has been Aimee Mullins, a former Paralympian, who become a globally successful fashion model by seeking to establish a new bodily aesthetic utilizing non-organic body parts. This paper examines how the modern discourse of prosthesis has shifted from the made-up and camouflaged body to the empowered and exhibited body to create a new cultural sensitivity of body image – prosthetic aesthetics. Prosthetic aesthetics oscillates between two polarized sensitivities: attractiveness/’coolness’, which derive from the image of a perfect human-machine synthetic body, and abjection/uncanny which is evoked by the actual materiality of the lived body incorporating a lifeless human-made body part.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


body image, prosthesis, disability, Paralympics, perception, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, Pistorius

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


10 February 2017Accepted
31 March 2017Published Online
1 June 2017Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

24 Mar 2017 10:15

Last Modified:

09 Jun 2021 23:43

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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