The 36th Workshop

14 January 2020
Theme: Considering the Paralympics, Sports Ethics and Meritocracy
Lecturer: KUMAGAYA Shinichiro, Associate Professor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo

In Tojisha-Kenkyu (first-person study), it is extremely important to have a co-production approach, in which the individual concerned and those around them are treated not as passive consumers, but as active and important agents. The UK has seen Tojisha-Kenkyu conducted at an advanced level, not only in the medical field but also applied to research in general. The University of Tokyo began co-production initiatives in 2012, and is working to promote environmental improvements and human support, including hiring people with disabilities as researchers. 

Let us sort two arguments that have been made about people with disabilities. The first is that we should realize a society in which people with disabilities can, with appropriate support, fully demonstrate their abilities. The second is that people have a right to live their lives with dignity, beyond the presence or absence of ability. The first rests on the premise of meritocracy. When discussing para-athletes, perhaps there is too much emphasis placed on this. The comments of the defendant in the stabbings at a Sagamihara disabled care home can be considered an expression of meritocracy and eugenic thinking. In it, the criteria for ability and existence have become connected. For the second argument, these two criteria must be separated in order to respect existence. However, both of these arguments are necessary for society. 

In 2017, the Kumagaya Lab at the University of Tokyo's Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology and others established the "Research Group on Performance Improvements Considerate of Stigma and Well-being in Meritocratic Environments." The goals of the research group are based on examining what kind of research is necessary from the first-person point of view of athletes, and are as follows: to think about how to improve not just athletes' performance, but also their general well-being in life; to change the environment of those who, due to the stigma that defeat or mental weakness is embarrassing, cannot seek help; to work to balance improvements to the environment with improvements in performance. The members of the research group include not only researchers, but also athletes themselves, and deals with a wide range of topics. Specifically, these include the addictions developed by top athletes after retirement, the struggles faced by Paralympians, efforts toward building a culture without blame, the financial burden on athletes, and how to support athletes' careers. There are also concerns about social isolation and adverse health effects from the public, self-directed, and structural stigmas that athletes and para-athletes bear. The research group's output aims to enable athletes to talk openly about their weaknesses and difficulties, to instill a culture that shares this in the world of sport, and to propose, in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Games, high-priority research topics from the first-person perspective.