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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PCS, Public Pedagogy and the Riots in Baltimore

– By Michael Friedman

Dr. Michael Friedman is currently Research Assistant Professor of Physical Cultural Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The tragedy of a young life lost, the absurdity of an empty baseball stadium, and the rage of rioters in the streets of Baltimore…

What does PCS at Maryland have to say in this moment?

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Physical Cultural Studies, Praxis, and the DIY Ethic

– By Sam Clevenger

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

In their article, “Toward a Physical Cultural Studies,” Michael Silk and David Andrews (2011) explicated the need for a “complementary field of study” (p. 6) alongside the sociology of sport, presenting Physical Cultural Studies as a project with the potential to “empower and compel ourselves, and others within the academy, to develop and apply critically-informed physical culture-oriented research in a manner that impacts, and is meaningful to, the range of communities who we have the potential to touch” (p. 5). Contextually, their target audience were academics within the sociology of sport field, with their intent being to suggest a rethinking of both how sociology of sport scholars could study the myriad everyday and historical forms and practices of physical culture, as well as recognize the political implications of such work. But, within their argument was a distinct separation between their conceptualizations of academia—a term flushed with contingencies and necessary historical implications—and of the masses experiencing the overlapping relations of power PCS scholarship purports to reveal. This preserved a perspective on practical applicability based not on the construction of new, alternative means of communication, but on the creation of space within intellectual institutions aligned with the ongoing processes of neoliberal capitalism, with the purpose of cultivating havens for dispersing emancipatory information. The proletariat need only to pay the tuition for the classes and join the exclusive spaces of academic journals, associations, and conferences to become conscious of inequality and their relation to it. The academics remain the agents who only need to become more politically engaged and seek to intervene through their writing and research to make a difference in the world.

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ANNOUNCEMENT: Dr. Dulce Filgueira to present at 3rd Annual ISA Forum on Sociology

Dr. Dulce Filgueira, professor at the University of Brasilia and current visiting scholar at PCS, will be presenting at the upcoming 3rd Annual International Sociological Association Forum of Sociology in Vienna, Austria, July 10-14, 2016.  Dr. Filgueira’s will be discussing some of her current research in a presentation titled “Embodiment and the Relation Time-Space in the Late Capitalism.”

Dr. Filgueira is working on some fascinating research concerning the sociology of the body.  We wish her the best of luck with her presentation at the ISA Forum of Sociology in 2016.

Below is her abstract:

The sociology of the body can be understood as a fruitful environment of research aimed at understanding human embodiment (LE BRETON, 2006; CSORDAS, 2010; 2008). Therefore, it can be considered that sociology of the body has three fields of activity which are: those dedicated to social and cultural logics of the body; those related to the imaginary social studies of the body and the last one those who consider the body as social mirror. By setting these three fields of research for sociology of the body, Le Breton (2006) aims to instigate reflections on how the embodiment of the phenomenon can be understood in the context of the social sciences in what we call late capitalism (ANDREWS, 2006). In this context, the relationship between time and space become complexity, because, in the late capitalism, the body presents different forms of experiencing that relation. Thereby, there are several ways of understanding the body practices, their senses and meanings, especially in religious rituals, dances, festivals, parties, and other daily life practices meet varying time frames and take place in natural spaces. Here, the body is polysemous and, at the same time, idiosyncratic. Our purpose is to broaden the debate about the embodiment in the context of experiencing time and space, considering different theoretical and methodological approaches in the field of social sciences. We encourage strong support by an empirically based research as a good prerequisite to pursue, but theorical reflexions will be consider too.

My (Feminist) PCS

– By Joy Bauer Olimpo

Joy Bauer Olimpo is a PCS alumnus.  She is currently an academic adviser for students planning on pursuing a career in health care at Colorado State University.

During my years as a graduate student in Physical Cultural Studies (PCS) and Women’s Studies, I was often asked how I felt feminism did or did not “fit in” with PCS. The critique of PCS for its disregard of feminist scholarship is justified, and, in my opinion, rooted in issues with theorists utilized in PCS and its base in cultural studies. My PCS is a feminist PCS; to discuss my feminist PCS is to discuss my PCS. If we examine the goals and fundamental underpinnings of PCS as noted at the University of Maryland (UMD) and in scholarship, PCS is inherently feminist. This notion is complicated by the fact that there are multiple feminisms and thus multiple ways of “being” feminist. In fact, two feminists from different perspectives would have different ways of “doing” feminist PCS. Thus, I must be clear that I cannot generalize to all feminists, but there are common themes in feminism(s) that apply to PCS and can hold PCS accountable in meeting its intended goals. I still remember a lecture in 2009 in which feminism in cultural studies was explored, and the subtitle of the section was “Keeping (P)CS Honest.” Those words have stayed with me throughout my journey with, through, and in PCS, and I strongly believe the feminism inherent in PCS strives to hold our young academic area to its goals.

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