Fencing for the blind and visually impaired is an emerging sub-discipline of fencing that creates interesting conditions for interaction between embodied endowments and worldly affordances. With the rules of fencing slightly adjusted to the needs of the participants who are blindfolded - regardless of their sightedness - the discipline requires its participants engage in combat relying on other than visual cues.
In the pursuit of understanding the difference embodied differences makes, as well as how embodied difference, or more precisely, perceptual differences, affect our meaning making processes, this project explores the lived experiences of people engaged in the discipline of fencing for the blind and visually impaired. The project specifically focuses on the different ways in which fencers perceive their ability and agency, as well as the ways in which they make sense of their surroundings with regards to their embodied differences.
To this end, the project explores the important role habits and habituation play in meaning making processes, the kinds of environmental affordances fencers employ, as well as the different ways in which they employ them. The project specifically focuses on echolocation as an embodied skill and further explores what the phenomenology of echolocation brings to the debate on embodied difference. In addition, the project explores the important role of pre-conceptual, affective and visceral experiences in meaning making processes. Furthermore, the study investigates how autoethnography and the expansion of methodological frameworks to include sensory methodologies enriches the understanding of affective experiences that are difficult, if not impossible, to capture by means of analysing narrative accounts and observation.
Sensory and embodied differences affect the ways in which we make sense of the world. People engaged in the discipline of fencing for the blind and visually impaired inhabit different perceptual worlds that are abundant with affordances and resources for meaning making. Finally, the findings suggest that so long as fencers use affordances and their bodies in ways that are spontaneous to them, rather than in ways reserved for the sighted world, their becoming-in-the-world is without impediment.
Ana Koncul is a research fellow at the USN PhD Program in Culture Studies. During her fellowship, she has also worked as a visiting researcher at the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies (Goldsmiths, University of London) and at the Department of Health, Ethics and Society (Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University).