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The Birth of the Obesity Clinic: Confessions of the Flesh, Biopedagogies and Physical Culture

Geneviève Rail

The recent construction of a so-called “obesity epidemic” has been fueled by epidemiologically-based studies recuperated by the media and suggestions of the rapid acceleration of obesity rates in the Western world. Studies linking obesity to ill-health have also exploded and greatly impacted our “physical” culture. In this article, I present a series of postcards to summarize the dominant obesity discourse and document the rhetorical terrain of the impending epidemic. I also offer counter-postcards to dispute the postcards’ objective postulations and contextualize the birth of what I call the “Obesity Clinic.” I then characterize this polymorphous clinic as an apparatus of capture sustained by biomedicalization, bioeconomics, and biocultural discourses and speak to its regulation and abjection of unruly (fat) bodies. I conclude with a few reflections about the territorializing nature of the Obesity Clinic as well as what it means for individuals and, more generally, for physical culture and its study.

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Editorial

Pirkko Markula and Michael Atkinson

Although the Editors of SSJ Usually Work Quietly Behind the Scene to Give Voice to the Contributing Authors, with the Change of Editorship We Have Decided to Address the Readership More Openly through a Brief Editorial. In This Editorial, Pirkko Markula, the Past Editor of SSJ, Would like to Introduce a New Series of Articles on the State of the Sociology of Sport Initiated during Her Time as the Editor. Michael Atkinson Will Then Share His Thoughts about Sociology of Sport and Introduce His New Editorial Team.

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That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore: Racial Microaggressions, Color-Blind Ideology and the Mitigation of Racism in English Men’s First-Class Cricket

Daniel Burdsey

This article investigates the presence and effects of racial microaggressions in English first-class cricket. Drawing on interview data with British Asian players, it not only highlights players’ experiences of racism, but also identifies their tendency to downplay the repercussions of some of the forms that this prejudice takes. The analysis demonstrates that color-blind ideology is so entrenched in contemporary Western sport that its reproduction is not exclusively the preserve of white groups; it can also at times compel minority ethnic participants to endorse dominant claims that the effects of racism are overstated as well. As a consequence they are often pressured into denying or downplaying those forms of verbal discrimination which are articulated between team-mates and in a seemingly playful manner, dismissing incidents as merely “banter” or “jokes”.

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Gender Ideologies, Youth Sports, and the Production of Soft Essentialism

Michael Messner

By the mid-Twentieth Century in the U.S., a dominant ideology of natural, categorical differences between women and men was an organic part of the unequal distribution of women and men into domestic and public realms, especially in middle class families. Sport was a key site for the naturalization of this ideology, which I call “hard essentialism.” Since the 1970s, an explosion of female athletic participation mirrored the movement of women into the professions, leading scholars to examine sport as a terrain of contested gender relations. This paper extends that discussion by positing a four-part periodization of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic gender ideologies, stretching from the mid-Twentieth Century to the present. Touching down empirically on contemporary professional class youth sports coaches’ views of children and gender, I identify an ascendant gender ideology I call “soft essentialism.” I argue that youth sports has become a key site for the construction of soft essentialist narratives that appropriate the liberal feminist language of “choice” for girls, but not for boys, thus serving to recreate and naturalize class-based gender asymmetries and inequalities. I end by outlining emergent strategies that spring from the contradictions of soft essentialism.

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Toward a Physical Cultural Studies

Michael L. Silk and David L. Andrews

Within this paper we offer what is hopefully both a suggestive (as opposed to definitive) and generative (as opposed to suppressive) signposting of the ontological, epistemological, and methodological boundaries framing the putative intellectual project that is Physical Cultural Studies (PCS). Ground in a commitment toward engaging varied dimensions or expressions of active physicality, we deliberate on an understanding of, and approach to, the corporeal practices, discourses, and subjectivities through which active bodies become organized, represented, and experienced in relation to the operations of social power. Further, drawing on Toby Miller, we suggest that this approach requires a motivation toward progressive social change. We consider the political and axiological contingencies of PCS, how it is differentiated from the “sociology of sport,” and how we may produce the type of knowledge that is able to intervene into the broader social world and make a difference. We are sure many will disagree—perhaps with good reason—with our assumptions. Indeed, such differences are welcomed for we feel that there is greater progressive potential in a field in tension, in healthy contestation, and, in which debates surrounding ontology, epistemology, political intent, method, interpretation, expression, and impact flow freely.

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What is this “Physical” in Physical Cultural Studies?

Michael D. Giardina and Joshua I. Newman

In this article, we identify various points of ontological, epistemological, and methodological intersection from which an embodied, generative Physical Cultural Studies project can emerge. We follow scholars such as Ingham (1997) and Andrews (2008) in arguing that contemporary “body work” scholars might benefit from “framing” (Butler 2009) embodiment and corporeality within the general coordinates of 1) cultural studies’ politics of articulation (as theory and method) and radical-contextualism and 2) the cultural exigencies of the body (i.e., cultural physicalities)—and in the “messy” practices of reflexivity, empirical vulnerability, and writing (as representation and performance) such embodied research as/in practice demands.

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Foucault in Leotards: Corporeal Discipline in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics

Natalie Barker-Ruchti and Richard Tinning

Women’s artistic gymnastics is an Olympic sport that involves intricate acrobatic and rhythmic activities. This kinesthetic proficiency demands muscular strength and courage, which have been argued to serve its athletes as a source of empowerment.

Various scholars question the positive effects of sport participation. This article builds on these doubts through a feminist Foucauldian study of WAG. An essayistic research story, compiled from data gained in an ethnographic study, serves as the basis for our analyses. The results demonstrate the complexity of WAG experiences and illustrate that gymnasts’ athletic proficiency is only possible through an extensive and elaborate process of corporeal discipline.

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It’s Not About the Game: Don Imus, Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Media

Cheryl Cooky, Faye L. Wachs, Michael Messner, and Shari L. Dworkin

Using intersectionality and hegemony theory, we critically analyze mainstream print news media’s response to Don Imus’ exchange on the 2007 NCAA women’s basketball championship game. Content and textual analysis reveals the following media frames: “invisibility and silence”; “controlling images versus women’s self-definitions”; and, “outside the frame: social issues in sport and society.” The paper situates these media frames within a broader societal context wherein 1) women’s sports are silenced, trivialized and sexualized, 2) media representations of African-American women in the U. S. have historically reproduced racism and sexism, and 3) race and class relations differentially shape dominant understandings of African-American women’s participation in sport. We conclude that news media reproduced monolithic understandings of social inequality, which lacked insight into the intersecting nature of oppression for women, both in sport and in the United States.

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Feeling Second Best: Elite Women Coaches’ Experiences

Leanne Norman

This study centers upon accounts of master women coaches in the UK, connecting the participants’ experiences of the structural practices within the coaching profession to their feelings of being undervalued and marginalized. By going beyond previous positivist and interpretive approaches to the issue of women coaches’ underrepresentation, I locate the participants’ narratives and their oppression within the wider sociocultural context of sport. The strength of patriarchy within sport and coaching is revealed in the private lives of the coaches. Consequently, the findings provoke methodological and theoretical implications for an alternative approach to understanding women’s long standing minority status within sports leadership.

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Power, Politics and “Sport for Development and Peace”: Investigating the Utility of Sport for International Development

Simon C. Darnell

Sport is currently mobilized as a tool of international development within the “Sport for Development and Peace” (SDP) movement. Framed by Gramscian hegemony theory and sport and development studies respectively, this article offers an analysis of the conceptualization of sport’s social and political utility within SDP programs. Drawing on the perspectives of young Canadians (n = 27) who served as volunteer interns within Commonwealth Games Canada’s International Development through Sport program, the dominant ideologies of development and social change that underpin current SDP practices are investigated. The results suggest that while sport does offer a new and unique tool that successfully aligns with a development mandate, the logic of sport is also compatible with the hegemony of neo-liberal development philosophy. As a result, careful consideration of the social politics of sport and development within the SDP movement is called for.