Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Alyson Cole

Subject Categories

Political Theory


New Materialism, Cyborgs, Foucault, Gender, Disability


This paper examines two types of embodiment and its verification in the context of contemporary sports: sex/gender-verification testing in the Olympics, and the International Paralympic Committee’s multi-tiered grading system for assessing disability, the premises of which raise important questions for feminist and disability theory, as well as for the increasing and increasingly integrated role that technology plays in both the Olympics and the Paralympics. I outline the 80-year history of policing the gender binary in international sport and its controversies, with particular attention to the Castor Semenya case, and the implications for intersex and transgender athletes. I examine the history of the Paralympics and its precursor federations through the lens of Foucualt’s theory of governability, and the implications of this history for the complex systems of athlete classification and disability verification in contemporary competition. Turning to the role of technology, I examine the rise of the “cyborg athlete,” the athlete subjectified by and realized through the intervention of technology in five ways: self technologies, landscape technologies, implement technologies, rehabilitative technologies and movement/evaluative technologies; examples of each are presented from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. I then argue for a new materialist approach to the relationship between technology and embodiment as a theoretical framework for reframing a new hermeneutic horizon for identity politics, in which removing the natural vs. artificial divide by advocating a theory of cyborgification allows a more intersectional approach to embodiment and a new way forward.