Funded PhD opportunity: From Stoke Mandeville 1944 to London 2012: Photography and the Making of the Paralympic Community in Britain

De Montfort University’s International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC) and the Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC) are pleased to announce a Midlands 4 Cities funded PhD project, From Stoke Mandeville 1944 to London 2012: Photography and the Making of the Paralympic Community in Britain.

This PhD project, which will be under the direction of Dr. Beatriz Pichel (PHRC) and Dr. Heather Dichter (ICSHC), is a Collaborative Doctoral Award in conjunction with the National Paralympic Heritage Trust (NPHT) and funded through the Midlands 4 Cities scheme. This PhD opportunity is open to applicants from the UK and EU. Please consult the M4C website for more information about the application process.

From Stoke Mandeville 1944 to London 2012: Photography and the Making of the Paralympic Community in Britain

This project will examine the formation of the Paralympic community through the study of the NHPT photographic collections. This archive follows a community-centred approach. It reflects the daily life of disabled athletes, and not just the elite or mega-events, and aims to bring the photographs back to their regional communities through itinerant exhibitions. By closely analysing the growing NHPT photographic collection, the student will identify how athletes, coaches, medical staff and families have used photography to define themselves as a ‘community’ and how they have used sport to frame and represent their disabilities. Understanding how the Paralympic community has appropriated medical images or the stories that Paralympians tell when seeing the NHPT photographs will challenge public perceptions about individuals with disabilities and will present new critical insights into the formation of sports communities, representations and disability.

The project will 1) determine the key role photographic representations have played in building the Paralympic community; 2) demonstrate the public impact and academic value of incorporating photographic collections into sport heritage projects and activities; 3) will consolidate the reputation of DMU as a leading institution in interdisciplinary arts and humanities research based on knowledge co-production with heritage institutions such as NHPT at regional and national levels.

This project will make a theoretical and practical intervention in current debates in disability history, photographic history and sports history. While scholars have examined the media coverage of Paralympic athletes, the visual history of the Paralympic movement is yet to be written. The NHPT collection of photographs produced by Paralympians, their families, coaches and medical professionals provide critical representations that, against negative imagery, showcase the disabled body as transgressive and full of political potential. Following a sociological approach which understands disability as formed by the interaction between the individual and society, the analysis of the NHPT photographic collections also sheds light into the understanding of sports disability within the Paralympic community. The critical examination of photographic sources will contribute to the sparse scholarship on the Paralympics, largely reliant on textual sources.

This project is timely with the NPHT’s recent opening of the museum and coincides with the Paralympics, starting just after the 2020 Paralympics close and finishing as the Paris Paralympics happen in 2024 and the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, which include para-sports.

Read the full details about this project on the M4C Find a Project page.

Questions about this project can be directed to Dr. Beatriz Pichel at or Dr. Heather Dichter at