Special Issue "Physical Culture"

A special issue of Societies (ISSN 2075-4698).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 July 2018).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. David Brown
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Cardiff School of Sport, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Interests: the development of interpretive sociological under-standings of the body-self-society relationship in the fields of sport and physical culture; Eastern movement forms as body-self transforming practice and the changing relationships between physical cultures and sustainability respectively

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Historically, the term 'physical culture' describes health and fitness movements that emerged from Europe and the United States in the late-19th and early 20th centuries. These were derived from a wide variety of physical activities, such as traditional pastimes, calisthenics, weightlifting, sport, gymnastics, military exercise, and dance. Today, many of these movements continue, added to by new movements such as Crossfit®, as well a truly massive cross-cultural and intercultural array of singular activities ranging from parkour to quidditch. Physical culture has now come to represent almost any activity in which all or part of its focus is on the development particular forms physicality valued by its practitioners. The term also embraces elements of sports and more general cultural formations which have socially and culturally meaningful physical practices embedded within them. The purpose of this Special Issue is to provide a collection of papers that examine the phenomenon of physical culture in contemporary societies from a broadly sociological and cultural studies perspective. In so doing, it invites contributions around the following themes and topics.

  • What is physical culture?
  • Perception and the senses in and through physical culture
  • The body, embodiment, bodywork and physical culture
  • Physical culture health, wellbeing and therapy
  • Collectivist and individualist physical cultures
  • Studying physical culture (methods and strategies)
  • The (re)invention of physical culture
  • Consuming physical culture
  • Sustainable physical culture
  • Changing social relations through physical cultures (gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, ageing etc.)
  • Physical culture and politics
  • Physical culture, space and identity
  • Global, global and intercultural physical culture
  • Cultural heritage and physical culture.
Dr. David Brown
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (13 papers)

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Open AccessEditorial
Physical Culture
Societies 2019, 9(1), 23; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc9010023 - 19 Mar 2019
Abstract
Johnston and Klandermans [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)

Research

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Open AccessArticle
Sliding to Reverse Ableism: An Ethnographic Exploration of (Dis)ability in Sitting Volleyball
Societies 2019, 9(2), 41; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc9020041 - 23 May 2019
Abstract
This paper illuminates the potential of diversely embodied sporting cultures to challenge ableism, the ideology of ability. Ableism constructs the able body as conditional to a life worth living, thus devaluing all those perceived as ‘dis’-abled. This hegemonic ideology develops into a ‘logic [...] Read more.
This paper illuminates the potential of diversely embodied sporting cultures to challenge ableism, the ideology of ability. Ableism constructs the able body as conditional to a life worth living, thus devaluing all those perceived as ‘dis’-abled. This hegemonic ideology develops into a ‘logic of practice’ through a cultural appropriation of body’s lived complexity, by reducing it to symbolic dichotomies (able/disabled). The path to challenge ableism is then to restore body’s complexity, by turning attention toward its lived embodied existence. Drawing upon an ethnographic study of a sitting volleyball (SV) community, we condense multiple data sources into a sensuous creative non-fiction vignette to translate the physical embodied culture of the sport. In exploring SV physicality through the ethnographic vignette, it is our intention to activate the readers’ own embodiment when interpreting and co-creating this text. By placing the reader in the lived reality of playing SV, we hope that the potential of this physical culture to destabilize engrained ableist premises becomes apparent. Ultimately, our goal is to promote a shift from ableism towards an appreciation and celebration of differently able bodies. This cultural shift is crucial for long lasting social empowerment for people with disabilities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
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Open AccessArticle
Women’s Wrestling: A ‘Fight’ for the Transformation of Cultural Schemas in Relation to Gender
Societies 2019, 9(1), 8; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc9010008 - 22 Jan 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This article reports on the findings from a social anthropological ethnographic study conducted within the area of women’s freestyle wrestling in Barcelona. The study focused on exploring female wrestlers’ experiences of the connection between their participation and visibility in this sport and the [...] Read more.
This article reports on the findings from a social anthropological ethnographic study conducted within the area of women’s freestyle wrestling in Barcelona. The study focused on exploring female wrestlers’ experiences of the connection between their participation and visibility in this sport and the hegemonic gendered cultural schemas established within our society in relation to gender. The ethnography comprised participant interviews and observations which enabled an exploratory thematic analysis of the relevant experiences of female wrestlers and situates these in the context of gender relations in the sport and in society. The preliminary findings are that freestyle wrestling in this context remains a sexist environment and wrestling shows still include stereotyped discourses when it comes to the staging of women’s matches. While there has been some development in terms of female participation in this environment, male dominated discourses, practices and infrastructures still represent a significant barrier for the development of women’s wrestling in Spain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
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Open AccessArticle
‘A Very Unstatic Sport’: An Ethnographic Study of British Savate Classes
Societies 2018, 8(4), 122; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8040122 - 05 Dec 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
The empirical focus of this paper is a martial art, Savate, which has received little scholarly attention from social scientists in the English-speaking world. The disciplinary framework is based on symbolic interactionist approaches to bodies, embodiment and movement. The ethnographic methods employ the [...] Read more.
The empirical focus of this paper is a martial art, Savate, which has received little scholarly attention from social scientists in the English-speaking world. The disciplinary framework is based on symbolic interactionist approaches to bodies, embodiment and movement. The ethnographic methods employ the research agenda of John Urry as set out in his wider call for a mobile sociology. Here Urry’s research agenda is used as a strategy: a key goal for ethnographic researchers. The utility of Urry’s sociological work on mobilities for scholarship on combat sports is exemplified. Until now that approach has not been widely used in martial arts investigations or sports studies. The data are drawn from an ethnographic study conducted dialogically by an experienced Savate teacher and a sociologist who observes him teaching. Nine ways in which the ethnographic data on Savate classes are illuminated by the mobilities paradigm are explored so that previously unconsidered aspects of this martial art are better understood and the potential of Urry’s ideas for investigating other martial arts and sports is apparent. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
Open AccessArticle
Green Spirituality and Physical Culture. Extreme Sports and the Imagery of Wilderness
Societies 2018, 8(4), 96; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8040096 - 27 Sep 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
In an area of increasingly widespread practices, the strengthening of the self through physical activities is exponentially reinforced by the inflexible laws of wild nature, now seen as a supreme judge. The knowledge of one’s personal limits and their overcoming through the verdict [...] Read more.
In an area of increasingly widespread practices, the strengthening of the self through physical activities is exponentially reinforced by the inflexible laws of wild nature, now seen as a supreme judge. The knowledge of one’s personal limits and their overcoming through the verdict of an implacable, inscrutable but fair nature, allows access to the powerful source of meaning of green spirituality. This phenomenon is closely linked to an unprecedented imagery of nature. In contemporary Western society there is a widespread trend to sacralise nature, but in the terms of a “disneyfied” object—to paraphrase David Lyon. The ritual of “symbolically challenging death”—to say it with David Le Breton—through extreme sports, forces wild nature to manifest its transcendent properties: Getting out of this trial unharmed means being able to recognise one’s higher qualities. Challenging death and coming out unscathed means giving back to the disoriented contemporary individual a right and “nomized” cosmos—in the words of Peter Berger—capable of recognising the “chosen ones”, that is to say the ones that deserve salvation. I conclude that the growing phenomenon of extreme sports in the wilderness represents the attempt of experiencing an amplification of the self in order to “enter into resonance” with nature, to become “one” with it. Nature strengthens the ultimate meanings of experience, integrating them into a sort of green eschatology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
Open AccessArticle
‘Boxing Is Our Business’: The Embodiment of a Leftist Identity in Boxe Popolare
Societies 2018, 8(3), 85; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8030085 - 12 Sep 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
Based on two-year ethnography of boxe popolare—a style of boxing codified by Italian leftist grassroots groups—and participant observation of a palestra popolare in an Italian city, the article purports to (a) deepen understanding of the nexus between physical cultures and politics and (b) [...] Read more.
Based on two-year ethnography of boxe popolare—a style of boxing codified by Italian leftist grassroots groups—and participant observation of a palestra popolare in an Italian city, the article purports to (a) deepen understanding of the nexus between physical cultures and politics and (b) contribute to understanding the renewal of political cultures by overcoming the disembodied perspectives on ideology. The first section of the paper tracks down the relation that ties boxing to the sociocultural matrix of the leftist grassroots groups. Boxing draws its significance from the antagonistic culture of the informal political youth organisations in which the practice is embedded and reflects the main changes that have been occurring in the collective action repertoires of the street-level political forces over the past few decades. The second section analyses the daily activities of boxe popolare. The paper thereby demonstrates how training regimes manipulate the bodies to inculcate a set of corporeal postures and sensibilities inherent to a mythology of otherness peculiar to the far-left ethos. In conclusion, the lived experience of boxe popolare addresses the importance of placing the situated practices and the socialised body at the centre of the study of political cultures in the contemporary post-ideological era. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
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Open AccessArticle
Conditioning Weapons: Ethnography of the Practice of Martial Arts Training
Societies 2018, 8(3), 80; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8030080 - 09 Sep 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
Drawing on the inspiring work by Wacquant about apprenticeship in boxing, I present data generated from a five-year ethnographic study of one Wushu Kung Fu Association in Italy. Drawing on a Bourdieusian version of theories of social practice, the aim is to investigate [...] Read more.
Drawing on the inspiring work by Wacquant about apprenticeship in boxing, I present data generated from a five-year ethnographic study of one Wushu Kung Fu Association in Italy. Drawing on a Bourdieusian version of theories of social practice, the aim is to investigate in depth the relationship between habitus and materials, as it seems an underestimated issue both in Wacquant’s presentation and in most martial arts studies developed from his work. The aim is to explore the relationship between the practitioner and the set of weapons—a chief part of the martial art training—as an endless work of conditioning. To this aim, according to what Wacquant calls “enactive ethnography”, I completely immersed myself inside the fieldwork in order to be able to explore the phenomenon and to personally test its operative mechanism. The challenge here is to enter the theatre of action and, to the highest degree possible, train in the ways of the people studied so as to gain a visceral apprehension of their universe as materials and springboard for its analytic reconstruction. Drawing on the difference between the cognitive, conative, and emotive components of habitus through which, according to Bourdieu, social agents navigate social space and animate their lived world, I show how conditioning works not only on the conative or cognitive components (learning techniques and incorporating kinetic schemes), but how a deeper psychological form of conditioning also comes into play, which aims to neutralize the shock due to the fear generated by the threat of a contusion. It is at this point, therefore, that the affective component of the habitus becomes crucial in constructing a sort of intimacy bond with the tool. The detectable transformation in the habitus of the practitioner, eventually, can be deciphered, starting from the characteristics of the tool that produces, in the ways and limits given by its material features, such a transformation. In the end, I stress the relevance of recognizing the active role of objects in transforming the habitus and I briefly discuss the potentiality of enactive ethnography in analyzing social practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
Open AccessArticle
Serving, Contemplating and Praying: Non-Postural Yoga(s), Embodiment and Spiritual Capital
Societies 2018, 8(3), 78; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8030078 - 09 Sep 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
In this paper, I discuss the role of spiritual seekers’ embodiment of karma, jnana and bhakti yoga(s) in the context of a neo-Vedantic, non-monastic ashram located in southern-Europe, an ashram I regard as an example of modern denominational yoga. Methodologically, I rely on [...] Read more.
In this paper, I discuss the role of spiritual seekers’ embodiment of karma, jnana and bhakti yoga(s) in the context of a neo-Vedantic, non-monastic ashram located in southern-Europe, an ashram I regard as an example of modern denominational yoga. Methodologically, I rely on an ex-post multi-sensory autoethnography, involving apprenticeship and full participation immersion, and I share with physical cultural studies a commitment to empirically contextualise the study of the moving body. Theoretically, I employ Shilling’s theory of the body as a multi-dimensional medium for the constitution of society, enriched by other theoretical and sensitising concepts. The findings presented in this paper show that the body of the seekers/devotees can be simultaneously framed as the source of, the location for and the means to, the constitution of the social, cultural and spiritual life of the ashram. As I discuss the development, interiorisation and implementation of serving, contemplative and devotional dispositions, which together form the scheme of dispositions that shape a yogic habitus, I also consider the ties between the specific instances under study and the more general spiritual habitus. The paper ends by broadening its focus in relation to the inclusion of Asian practices and traditions into the Western landscape. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
Open AccessArticle
From the Calendar to the Flesh: Movement, Space, and Identity in a Mexican Body Culture
Societies 2018, 8(3), 66; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8030066 - 13 Aug 2018
Cited by 2
Abstract
There are numerous ways to theorise about elements of civilisations and societies known as ‘body’, ‘movement’, or ‘physical’ cultures. Inspired by the late Henning Eichberg’s notions of multiple and continually shifting body cultures, this article explores his constant comparative (trialectic) approach via the [...] Read more.
There are numerous ways to theorise about elements of civilisations and societies known as ‘body’, ‘movement’, or ‘physical’ cultures. Inspired by the late Henning Eichberg’s notions of multiple and continually shifting body cultures, this article explores his constant comparative (trialectic) approach via the Mexican martial art, exercise, and human development philosophy—Xilam. Situating Xilam within its historical and political context and within a triad of Mesoamerican, native, and modern martial arts, combat sports, and other physical cultures, I map this complexity through Eichberg’s triadic model of achievement, fitness, and experience sports. I then focus my analysis on the aspects of movement in space as seen in my ethnographic fieldwork in one branch of the Xilam school. Using a bare studio as the setting and my body as principle instrument, I provide an impressionist portrait of what it is like to train in Xilam within a communal dance hall (space) and typical class session of two hours (time) and to form and express warrior identity from it. This article displays the techniques; gestures and bodily symbols that encapsulate the essence of the Xilam body culture, calling for a way to theorise from not just from and on the body but also across body cultures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
Open AccessArticle
Adapted Utilitarian Judo: The Adaptation of a Traditional Martial Art as a Program for the Improvement of the Quality of Life in Older Adult Populations
Societies 2018, 8(3), 57; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8030057 - 24 Jul 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
This article reports on the Adapted Utilitarian Judo project. The use of the foundations and technical elements of traditional Judo, adapted and contextualised to the requirements of the older adult population, orienting the activity toward the field of health and the improvement of [...] Read more.
This article reports on the Adapted Utilitarian Judo project. The use of the foundations and technical elements of traditional Judo, adapted and contextualised to the requirements of the older adult population, orienting the activity toward the field of health and the improvement of the quality of life of the older adult. Its mission is to facilitate maintaining and improving the functionality and autonomy of this population, with respect to the performance of the basic and instrumental activities of daily life. At the same it seeks to achieve this while maintaining the essence of the values that are inherent to the practice of Judo as a traditional martial art. It is argued that Judo, once adapted to focus on a utilitarian function, not only allows to actively influence aspects such as maintaining the physical qualities of the elderly but also fosters other key elements for active and healthy ageing by participating in an ongoing group activity, such as socialisation and self-esteem. More specifically, the paper presents how adapted Judo represents an innovation in the treatment of a risk factor associated with aging: the active prevention of falls. We conclude that Adapted Utilitarian Judo (JUA) is both a timely and relevant as a social and educational tool of great value, responds to propos called for by the international scientific community for programs aimed at improving the health and quality of life of the older adult population, especially in Europe, that is ageing at a fast pace. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
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Open AccessArticle
Exploring Touch in Physical Education Practicum in a Touchy Latin Culture
Societies 2018, 8(3), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8030054 - 20 Jul 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
The decrease in touch has been explored in recent literature in relation to child protection discourses and no touch policies and it has been suggested that Physical Education (PE) has been weakened by the lack of touch. Significantly, the issue of touch has [...] Read more.
The decrease in touch has been explored in recent literature in relation to child protection discourses and no touch policies and it has been suggested that Physical Education (PE) has been weakened by the lack of touch. Significantly, the issue of touch has remained largely unexplored in Latin societies, which are characterised by an amplified tactile approach to people and comparatively little personal space. This paper examines how a group of pre-service PE teachers in Spain responded to, acted and negotiated touch with primary school students. It draws on data generated from body journals and the concepts of risk society, surveillance and moral panic. The findings indicate that touching school students is still common practice in Spain and was considered something positive. The influence of other individuals and certain spaces was also noted by participants, who felt more surveilled and distressed on particular occasions and some of them strategically introduced touch with students in a progressive manner. The results of the study invite us to reflect on the possibility of doing more harm than good by presenting topics about touch to pre-service teachers and how pre-service teacher educators may need to provide PE students with proper resources and understandings to successfully negotiate touch with school students. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
Open AccessArticle
How Are University Gyms Used by Staff and Students? A Mixed-Method Study Exploring Gym Use, Motivation, and Communication in Three UK Gyms
Societies 2018, 8(1), 15; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8010015 - 01 Mar 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
This study examined university gym use by staff and students using mixed methods: participant observation and an e-survey. Research in three UK universities entailed 16 observation sessions and an e-survey that reached 3396 students and staff. The research focused on gym use, the [...] Read more.
This study examined university gym use by staff and students using mixed methods: participant observation and an e-survey. Research in three UK universities entailed 16 observation sessions and an e-survey that reached 3396 students and staff. The research focused on gym use, the gym environment, the presentation of the self, and social interaction within gym spaces. The gyms were found to have a difficult role to play in providing functionality for some, while helping others to be active and minimize feelings of isolation and lack of control. This led to these gyms developing spaces of exercise rather than therapeutic spaces, and divisions in use of space, with some areas rarely used and often highly gendered, resulting in contested meanings produced within Healthy University discourses and physical activities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
Open AccessArticle
Exploring Women’s Embodied Experiences of ‘The Gaze’ in a Mix-Gendered UK Gym
Societies 2018, 8(1), 2; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8010002 - 25 Dec 2017
Cited by 2
Abstract
Feminist and gaze researchers have conducted ongoing discussions surrounding issues relating to the gaze and its impact on female experience. Women have the ‘to-be-looked-atness’ characteristic, with the gaze being directed at the female body, commonly by a male. To date, the focus of [...] Read more.
Feminist and gaze researchers have conducted ongoing discussions surrounding issues relating to the gaze and its impact on female experience. Women have the ‘to-be-looked-atness’ characteristic, with the gaze being directed at the female body, commonly by a male. To date, the focus of feminist research surrounding men looking at women and the analysis how women make sense of looks between women remains limited and scattered. Drawing upon ethnographic data obtained from a PhD research project, this paper delves into the embodied experiences of female exercisers within a UK ‘working-class’ gym. By exploring the women’s own accounts of their living, breathing and sensing bodies as they exercise, I attempt to understand how they make sense of this physical culture, their embodied selves as well as broader constructions of the gendered body. Utilising a feminist phenomenological approach, I explore the social-structural position of women in a patriarchal system of gender relations, whilst simultaneously acknowledging and analysing the structural, cultural and historical forces and location, upon individual lived body experiences and gendered embodiment. Discussion is provided on how women make sense and interpret specific ‘gazes’ encountered within the gym culture from both men and women. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Physical Culture)
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