Visibilisation of expectations and invisibilisation of experiences: the strange discursive treatment of the life of amputees with prostheses
Dr Valentine Gourinat, Paul-Fabien Groud and Lucie DalibertZoom
Amputees and their prostheses have been increasingly present in media discourse and collective iconography in recent years. The prosthesis is fascinating, sometimes even impressive (Goffette, 2017). These representations contribute to shaping a collective image and understanding of what it is like to live with a prosthesis. However, these images do not necessarily correspond to the reality experienced by the amputee population fitted with prostheses (Dalibert, 2015).
By simplifying the profiles and problems specific to the amputee population, this media coverage obscures many aspects that are essential to an accurate understanding of what life with a prosthetic limb can be like (Murray 2005, 2009). The dimensions of performance, success, or surpassing oneself are the privileged entry points for many media representations. Yet they only concern a small part of the life of people fitted with a prosthesis. Conversely, the notions of learning, accommodation and appropriation of the prosthesis, as well as bodily and technical difficulties and limits, which are fundamental in the user's experience, are totally absent from media discourse and analysis.
However, this is not without consequences (Gourinat 2016, 2017), because these representations have a great deal of value in terms of raising awareness and providing information, or even in terms of prescription and injunction (Winance, 2003). By disseminating prejudices, biases of understanding and, above all, often unrealistic hopes, media images lead to a certain amount of disappointment and suffering for people who undergo amputation and have to learn how to use a prosthetic device.
This presentation will be based on fieldwork observations and interviews conducted in France with amputees fitted with prostheses during their learning of, and with, the prosthesis in functional rehabilitation centers. We will analyse their experiences and will put them in perspective with the media discourse observed in recent years (2010-2020).