PCS piece published in Sport, Education and Society

PCS Ph.D. student Sam Clevenger and Professor Shannon Jette recently published an article in the international journal Sport, Education and Society concerning the intersection of republican political ideology, nationalism, and militarization in the promotion of physically active coursework at Maryland Agricultural College, the nineteenth-century institution that would eventually become the University of Maryland.  The article challenges dominant understandings of the history of American physical education by  exploring the active body’s relation to political ideology and the idealization of national citizenship within historical contexts outside the focus of late nineteenth-century organized physical education.

The article is titled “From ‘cultivators of the soil’ to ‘citizen-soldier’: physically active education and the nation at Maryland Agricultural College”.  A link to the article can be found here.

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9th Annual PCS Graduate Student Conference

The graduate students at the University of Maryland’s Physical Cultural Studies program (PCS) have posted their call for papers for their 9th annual PCS Graduate Student Conference.  The conference will be held in College Park, Maryland on March 4th, 2016.

The conference theme is “Engaging Health and Physical Culture: Power, Politics, and Possibilities“.  The coordinators of the conference invite submissions for paper presentations on all topics related to the critical study of physical culture, the active body, sport, and health.

Please visit http://www.umdpcs.org/ for more information.

California Public Beach Access and 19th Century Prussian Wood Theft

On October 2nd, the British daily The Guardian published an article on their website detailing how some wealthy landowners on the California coastline have been hiring private security guards to patrol public beaches adjacent to their properties. Despite California Coastal Act guidelines that public beach areas, even in beaches not accessible to the public, begin where “where the sand is wet (below the mean high tide line),” and despite most California beaches being either entirely publicly accessible or connected to public walkways, for the past few years the California Coastal Commission has noted a prominent uptick in wealthy coastal residents paying private security patrols to approach beachgoers and inform them that they do not have the legal right to be on the beach, sometimes with the help of the local police force. As one longtime member of the Commission explained in the article, “It’s a means of saying: ‘You can’t come here…Even if legally you’re allowed, we’re not going to let you do it.’”

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A Scheme for Reading Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

– By Sam Clevenger

Sam Clevenger is a Ph.D. student in Physical Cultural Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

As I am currently going through the throes of reading Continental philosophical texts for my comprehensive examinations, I thought it might be beneficial to post for internet posterity the scheme I just used to read Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit.  The structure and outline was drawn from György Lukács’ book The Young Hegel, which I depended on greatly to help decipher Hegel’s writing and meaning.

The reading of Hegel in the context of PCS is more than an exercise in academic “seminar game”, to borrow a phrase from E.P. Thompson.  If the Physical Cultural Studies project is to think of itself as a post-Marxist project, then we must begin not with Capital or The German Ideology, but with the writings from which Marx and Engels drew upon and were responding to.  This was Hegel’s German Idealism, more prominently expressed in The Phenomenology of Spirit.  Marx, in a sense, can be seen as having incorporated the material (indeed, the laboring corporeal) within a dialectical analysis that was originally Hegelian and idealistic.  For us to understand the working of dialectic materialism, and to expand and critique a project deviating from the premises of a dialectical materialism, we must first understand Marx and Engel’s response to Hegel’s originating elucidation of the dialectic in his understanding of the history of the Absolute Spirit.

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PRISM: Feminist Materialism within Physical Cultural Studies

– By Katie Esmonde and Meir Lewin

Katie Esmonde and Meir Lewin are Ph.D. students in Physical Cultural Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.  They recently submitted the following essay, arguing that Megan Warin’s 2014 article “Material Feminism, Obesity Science and the Limits of Discursive Critique” should be added as a prism in the PCS program.  The program unanimously voted for the article’s inclusion.

In the introduction to the essay “Material Feminism, Obesity Science and the Limits of Discursive Critique,” Warin (2014) discusses her experience at an interdisciplinary symposium on the intergenerational influence on obesity. She describes her sense that there was a separation of biological reality from discursive language” (p. 2); essentially, the social scientists were unable to communicate with the biological perspective due to their understanding of the body as a purely socially constructed entity. While perhaps evoking some defensiveness as we read along, this anecdote resonated with our experiences as physical cultural studies students (PCS) in a kinesiology department. While we do not wish to diminish the importance of social and discursive theorizations of the body, we have found that these perspectives can be limiting as they can deny the materiality of the body. Just as the physiologists in kinesiology must consider the significance of socially constructed elements of the body, PCS scholars will further a socially focused analysis by considering the interwoven and interactive nature of biology and culture.

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Physical Culture and Judaism: Reflections on Yom Kippur via Richard Hoggart

– By Meir Lewin

Meir Lewin is a Ph.D. student in Physical Cultural Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Yom Kippur translates to “Day of Atonement.” There is a heaviness that comes with the idea of atoning for ones sins. We are instructed to fast for 24 hours in order to sharpen our senses, to reach a level of heightened sincerity in our apologies for the past year’s transgressions. To a fault, I don’t connect with the idea of atoning, in this specific way. What I do appreciate is the notion of an active reflection—reflecting on the year, our lives, our relationships, and most of all, our families. In this sense, it seems beyond the realm of simple coincidence that Dr. David Andrews, in discussing the work of Richard Hoggart (1957) in our current class on British Cultural Studies, encouraged us to engage with our own genealogy.

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This Pain in My Back: Injury, Stress, and Cohesive Personhood

– By Shaun Edmonds

Shaun Edmonds is a Ph.D. student in the Physical Cultural Studies program at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Dealing with the stressors of academia is a daily struggle. Every day is a seemingly endless attempt to prioritize a constellation of ambiguous expectations, looming deadlines, and yet still find the space to provide sufficient personal care to rise again the next day and do it all over again. It is far from unusual for disruptions in one form or another to upend a given day, but arguably we often have the agency and choice to make our prioritizations our own. We decide what is important and what can be shelved for another day. When that power is wrestled from us through injury, it can be debilitating in often unconsidered ways. In this essay I explore the ways in which chronic pain from a lower back injury created conflict between different aspects of my identity, causing my normally cohesive person to splinter into warring factions. Unlike Josh Newman’s exploration of the pain in his neck, a resultant physical manifestation of the dissonance between his social justice values and his privileged existence (2013), I instead attempt to trace the impact of the pain in my back to the creation of dissonance between body, mind, and social networks. This mapping will explore how multiple dimensions of personhood are imbricated within the body, and how those imbrications are revealed (and perhaps unraveled) through instances of injury.

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Report: The History Manifesto, April 20th, 2015

– By Sam Clevenger

Sam Clevenger is a Ph.D. student in the Physical Cultural Studies program at the University of Maryland, College Park.

On April 20th of this year, I attended a panel discussion at The Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. concerning a recent publication by historians Jo Guldi and David Armitage’s titled The History Manifesto. The work has caused considerable debate within the historical profession, raising questions about the theories, frameworks, and approaches historians employ in their professional practice and forcing scholars to reflect on the state of the field and its significance within the contemporary political moment.

To briefly (poorly) summarize, Guldi and Armitage argue that the historical profession has become increasingly specialized and focused on short time spans, a consequence of a larger, dominating movement within Western society toward to short-time thinking and planning. “We live in a moment of accelerating crisis that is characteri[z]ed by the shortage of long-term thinking,” Guldi and Armitage write. “Even as rising sea levels threaten low-lying communities and coastal regions, the world’s cities stockpile waste, and human actions poison the oceans, earth, and groundwater for future generations.”[1] For the field of history, Guldi and Armitage argue that such thinking can be remedied if historians return to French historian Fernand Braudel’s concept of the “longue durée” in their approaches to studying history. Braudel defined longue durée history as a history of long time spans (centuries of time), focusing on the enduring, slow-moving, or continuous “deep structures” of historical time, things like climate and economic cycles.[2] For Guldi and Armitage, a history field informed by Braudel’s longue durée would allow for the production of historical narratives that can not only transcend temporal disjunctures and assumptions of modernization, but also present stories more compelling and pertinent to the crises of today’s global society. Continue reading “Report: The History Manifesto, April 20th, 2015”

‘Fuck the Skinny Bitches in the Club’: Running, Fitness Culture, and a Feminine ‘Being-in-the-World’

– By Katie Esmonde

Katie Esmonde is a Ph.D. student in the Physical Cultural Studies program at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The hundreds of hours that I have spent running on sidewalks, trails, roads, and fields are perhaps the times when I have been most aware of my body. In contrast to Leder’s (1990) concept of the “disappearing body”, where the body “is largely absent from conscious thought in everyday life” (Allen-Collinson & Owton, 2014, p. 3), running can be characterized by “intense embodiment” or a “[period] of heightened awareness of corporeal existence” (ibid.). Key to the intense embodiment of running is the sense of heightened proprioception, or the “inward-feeling, sense of oneself… often taken to focus on neuromuscular perceptions and/or of the position of one’s body or limbs in space” (ibid., p. 8). These feelings have been a source of great pleasure for me, while sometimes also being a source of pain.

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