This past Friday, March 4th, we in the Physical Cultural Studies research group hosted our ninth annual Graduate Student Conference at the School of Public Health Building on the University of Maryland, College Park campus. Along with numerous fascinating student presentations on a myriad of topics related to the critical study of sport, physical culture and public health, we were fortunate to also host two keynote addresses by both Dr. Oliver Rick of Springfield College and the illustrious Dr. David Zang of Towson University.
Dr. Rick, a recent graduate of the PCS program, spoke on the crucial topic of the role of praxis in Physical Cultural Studies as an academic political project. Praxis, Dr. Rick suggested, can and ultimately should be something interconnected with the theoretical and methodological, leading to innovative, politicized, scholarship in which the underlying theory emanates from, informs, and inherently intervenes into the political moment and the “materialities of lived experience”.
The following is an insightful excerpt from Dr. Rick’s address that encapsulates much of the spirit of his overall argument:
“Today I want to add to this conversation, in particular thinking through how the use of theory from outside of what have become the traditional theoretical areas of PCS requires us to re-imagine the political commitments of those that identify with the core of the project. I am not attempting to propose anything that is particularly radical, but look to present just one way through which to further advance the project in its imperative to be a theoretically informed, but also engaged form of academic praxis. It is not a suggestion that PCS has to this point failed to achieve outcomes that adhere to this imperative, but is an attempt to start a collective re-thinking of what it means to be politically engaged, especially as we continue to impact on new issues and utilize new theoretical tools to do so. It is an attempt to grapple with a similar conversation that happened between Foucault and Deleuze in the early 1970s. In that back and forth Foucault (1980) stated that ‘theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice’ (p. 208). A statement to which Deleuze (1980) responded: ‘[theory] must be useful. It must function. And not for itself. If no one uses it, beginning with the theoretician himself (sic), then the theory is worthless or the moment inappropriate’ (p. 208). To plug in new theory as part of our research and writing without letting it fully permeate our whole approach to being an engaged, or as some would describe, a public academic, stunts its effects and limits its possibilities. If it does not have practical applicability starting with the theorist, then the moment might just be inappropriate or in Deleuze’s polemic, the theory may be worthless.”
This is an important, fascinating topic and discussion in terms of its potential insight for current, budding PCS scholarship. Dr. Rick has graciously allowed us to post his keynote address on The Corpus. You can find a pdf copy of his address and proceedings below. Please take a moment to read Dr. Rick’s address, and feel free to post your thoughts on the overall topic of praxis on The Corpus.