“Our Caster” and “The Blade Runner”:

‘Improper’ corporealities cripqueering the post/apartheid body politic

  • Benita de Robillard Lecturer, Division of Dramatic Arts, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
Keywords: Caster Semenya, Oscar Pistorius, South Africa, Intersex, Dis/ability


Caster Semenya and Oscar Pistorius were each selected to carry the South African national flag at the ceremonies marking the opening and closing of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Through this spectacle their individual bodies both represented, and somatechnically enfleshed, the post/apartheid body politic. Semenya and Pistorius are globally recognisable and influential figures who inhabit, respectively, sex/gender variant and dis/abled bodies. Popular discourses about, and representations of, their bodies are characterised by a metaphoricity of bodily integrity. This metaphorical structure is predicated upon, and seeks to (re)secure, an assumption of compulsory somatic integrity. Numerous scholars, Jessica Cadwallader and Nikki Sullivan among them, have demonstrated how these ideas about corporeal integrity also condition metaphors of the body politic. Drawing on insights gleaned from somatechnics and crip theory I argue that Semenya’s and Pistorius’ bodies form an assemblage on the one hand, and explore how this assemblage is connected to the post/apartheid body politic on the other. In doing so I explain how a form of corporeal nationalism works with, and through, the athletes’ bodies to ensure that bodily integrity is a precondition for entry into the body politic. I further speculate on how the Semenya/Pistorius assemblage resists this manoeuvre by indexing an alternative metaphoricity of embodiment that cripqueers an idea(l) of the post/apartheid body politic.