: How Katherine Araniello’s online performances expose the ways popular presentations of disability in normative society misrepresent disabled people

  • Rachel Helliwell

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


I investigate how the performance artist Katherine Araniello presents herself in different ways on her YouTube channel to directly challenge normative ways of seeing disabled people. Araniello’s YouTube channel is a portfolio of her inventive performance craft where she stages a preoccupation with bring misrepresented as a crip disabled woman. Her performance craft, such as her framing of the camera, and use of costume, sound and editing techniques, exposes how popular presentations of disability create assumptions about the disability community.

I assess how Araniello’s self-presentation in six of her YouTube videos works in a dialogue with Garland-Thomson’s modes of seeing disability. Garland-Thomson names four modes of seeing, which are ‘the wondrous, the sentimental, the exotic and the realistic’ (Garland-Thomson, 2001, p.339). My first chapter assesses how Araniello plays with pitiful presentations of disability. I analyse how the aptly titled videos Pity by Katherine Araniello (Araniello, 2013a) and If only I was normal (Araniello, 2016a) work in a dialogue with the sentimental mode. Chapter Two focuses on Araniello’s parody of inspirational narratives within the wondrous mode of seeing, where she satirically stages herself as a Paralympian in Meet the Superhuman (Araniello, 2012b).

In Chapter Three, I analyse how Walking: St Ives (Araniello, 2012a) and Video Blog 06 (Araniello, 2015) complicate the realistic mode. I assess how Araniello rejects autobiography as a form of self-presentation on YouTube and crafts insincerity as a way of rejecting popular presentations of disability. I bring my discussion to a close by analysing how A Beacon of Hope (Araniello, 2016b) troubles the exotic mode. I discuss how McRuer’s notions of hegemony and counterhegemony further my understanding of the exotic mode and attest how Araniello’s work reaches dimensions beyond the modes of seeing framework. My thesis captures a mere snapshot of Araniello’s ideas and explores how her performances complicate ways disability is typically presented in society.
Date of Award4 Jul 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBen Spatz (Main Supervisor)

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