At the heart of contemporary kinesiology resides a long history of promoting “physical culture” as a homogenizing and unifying force, linking all of humanity together with a common bond. We routinely prescribe the universal power of physical activity to improve health and well-being across social boundaries and beyond national boundaries. We frame problems and offer solutions that seem to affect all people, in all places, at all times. At the same time, multicultural issues, understood in a broad sense, have captivated students of human movement and shaped the development of the field. The field itself emerged from multiple cultures—academic, intellectual, vocational, and national. The dialectics of culture and the clash of universal and plural perspectives have played an important role in the quest to define the meaning of human movement. Embracing rather than resolving these tensions offers the best strategy for charting creative current and future directions for research and policy in kinesiology.
The role and rights of international fellows in the National Academy of Kinesiology (NAK) have generated much current debate. As NAK works to define its mission and membership in the 21st century, to adjust its traditions and constitution to new realities that make global interchanges far more convenient than they were in 1926 when the society began, many of the members struggle with balancing the rewards of change against the recompenses of continuity. In this context, NAK President Bradley Cardinal approached me to collaborate with him in exploring how the history of NAK might shed light on our current debates. What our history reveals is that the academy has always struggled to be national institution that lives in an international world. Whether we should move in a different direction remains in the hands of the members.