To address persistent health and physical activity issues, listening to the opinions and needs of a diverse population should be at the forefront of a social justice agenda. This article examines how a participant-centered photo exhibition, as the culmination of a two-year-long visual participatory research project, provided a site of public pedagogy for the audience to be acculturated around issues of ethnically diverse young people’s physical activity. Drawing from constructivist theory, I first present ethnically diverse young people as “experts of their own lives” and as active agents in their self-expression of their embodiments. I then demonstrate how young people’s visual narratives created alternative visions to media-driven body ideals, and to current schooling practices of body control and regulation. Last, I consider the benefits and limitations of organizing a photo exhibition as a pedagogical means to disseminate research findings to a larger audience, beyond the “academic monopoly,” for social change.
Jihyeon Lee and Laura Azzarito
Recent reports have indicated that recent immigrant minority girls are the least physically active in the United States and are often categorized as “bodies-at-risk” for obesity and other health issues. This dominant “at-risk” discourse presents a negative image of recent immigrant minority girls and positions them as “others.” This participatory visual study thus explored how the recent immigrant minority girls co-constructed and shared their (dis)engagement in physical culture on a popular social media platform: Instagram. Results demonstrated that the use of Instagram served two interrelated functions: (a) a constructive pedagogical space in which the participants examined, learned, and expressed their knowledge related to physical activity and health and (b) an empowering tool to create “Thirdspace” in which the participants’ visual texts opened up the space of inclusion and fluidity. Despite potential risks, it was suggested that the use of Instagram was beneficial for conducting research with, for, and about marginalized youth.
Laura Azzarito and Melinda Solmon
Despite significant theoretical and practical progress over the past 20 years, the social construction of gender and its link to youths’ participation in physical activity in school contexts remain critical issues that call for further socioeducational scrutiny. In this study, researchers investigated the ways students’ embodiment of discursive constructs differed in terms of gender and race, and the relation between students’ embodied discursive constructs and students’ favorite or least favorite physical activities in physical education classes. The participants were 528 students from three public high schools. A survey was developed to assess students’ embodiment of discursive constructs. These results suggest that discursive constructs are influential in producing students’ choice of “gender-appropriate” physical activities. To destabilize the gender binary, therefore, the creation and promotion of a discourse of the “multiplicity of physicality” is proposed.
Mara Simon and Laura Azzarito
Background: Ethnic minority physical education teachers who work in predominantly White schools may face multiple forms of marginalization due to racialized discourses of White normativity. In addition, the intersection of whiteness and hegemonic masculinity embedded within physical education may result in an “othering” of teachers who are located outside the accepted norms of their schools. Purpose: The authors examined the embodied identities of ethnic minority female physical education teachers who work in predominantly White schools to identify how whiteness informs their sense of self. Methods: This study utilized narrative-based semistructured and conversational interviews and photo elicitation as the methods for visual narrative inquiry. Results: Participants not only enacted color-blind discourses to make their racialized identities invisible, but also experienced identity struggles in their effort to negotiate hypervisibility as minorities within their schools. Discussion : The identity struggle of racialized self-representations in White schools represents how multiple marginalizing factors prevent ethnic minorities from overtly expressing their authentic selves.
Laura Azzarito and Melinda A. Solmon
Recently, national studies have reported on young people’s low level of participation in physical activity. Because the effect of gender and racial differences among youth participating in physical activity have not been sufficiently addressed, examining the social construction of the body in physical education can provide valuable insights. This study uses poststructuralism as a lens to investigate how students’ construction of meanings around the body varied by gender and race, and how bodily meanings related to students’ participation in physical education classes. The participants were 528 students from public high schools. An instrument was used to assess students’ racial and gendered construction of bodily meanings around specific discursive constructs. Results indicated that students’ meanings differ by race and gender, especially in regard to size, power, muscularity, and appearance. These findings suggest that bodily meanings were influential in students’ self-reported levels of participation in physical education classes.
Laura Azzarito and Melinda A. Solmon
The study of the social construction of the body has become crucial to contemporary academic discourses in education and physical education. Employing feminist poststructuralist theory and a qualitative ethnographic design, this study investigated how high school students identified themselves with images of bodies drawn from fitness and sports magazines, and how their body narratives were linked to their participation in physical education. Students’ body narratives reflected notions of comfortable, bad, and borderland bodies that influenced students’ physical activity choices and engagement in physical education. Girls’ narratives of their physicality were found to be significantly less comfortable than boys’. Critical pedagogy to destabilize gendered dominant discourses of mass media body culture and to develop positive, meaningful, and empowering student physicality is discussed.
Laura Azzarito, Mara Simon, and Risto Marttinen
In today’s school climate of accountability, researchers in Physical Education (PE) pedagogy have contested current fitness curricula that aim to manage, control, and normalize young people’s bodies. This participatory visual research incorporated a Body Curriculum into a fitness unit in a secondary school (a) to assist young people critically deal with the media narratives of perfect bodies they consume in their daily lives, and (b) to examine how participants responded to a Body Curriculum. It was found that while participants rejected media fabrications of the “ideal body” and the “unhealthy” ideals they circulate in society, they recognized the difficulty of not being “caught up” in media storytelling. Participants’ views of their own bodies, however, were not malleable, but rooted in narrow, fixed heteronormative white ideals of “looking a certain way” to “fit” society norms of physical appearance and attractiveness. The benefits and limitations of implementing a Body Curriculum are recognized.
Mara Simon, Jihyeon Lee, Megen Evans, Sheldon Sucre, and Laura Azzarito
This paper advances a socio-educational and critical orientation for the study of human movement to valorize and recenter voicelessness. Representing the subjugation of marginalized people can open up possibilities for transformative research projects invested in the reimagining of equitable and inclusive studies of human movement and education. First, the authors suggest that ongoing intellectual tensions in the field are unproductive; instead, the authors advance a social justice agenda, advocating for an educational, sociocultural, and critical orientation toward human movement. Second, the authors argue for moving beyond the “exercise is medicine” mantra as a dominant, normative framing of kinesiology. Third, drawing from a socio-educational perspective, the authors propose intersectionality as a crucial component of critical race theory to explore and center the significance of health, physical activity, and movement in the lives of Black, Latinx, Native, LGBQ, and transgender groups, people with disabilities, and those who face body weight stigma, from their own viewpoints.