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Patricia Vertinsky

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Patricia Vertinsky

In this essay, I drew upon the perspectives of Walter Benjamin’s “angel of history” in reflecting upon the history of kinesiology and the influences that led to my own academic career in kinesiology. I have outlined how my disciplinary training as a physical educator and educational historian provided the resources to propel my continuing inquiry into the inter- and cross-disciplinary (and intrinsically entangled) nature of kinesiology. Gender, nationality, training, location, and timing all had their influences on my education and job opportunities and upon building toward a career in a research university where physical education and kinesiology, by design and accident, increasingly separated from one another. From the perspective of a sport historian, I suggest that the language and pursuit of balance might be applied productively to thinking about the future of kinesiology. Sport historians can help in this mission by training a critical lens upon the ongoing traffic between nature and culture and the deep sociocultural situatedness of the science and technology practices used in kinesiology teaching and research in the 21st century. In essence, they can illuminate the historical context of the tools that now frame kinesiology’s questions and the political context in which their answers emerge.

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Patricia Vertinsky

Elderly athletes running the marathon offer a barometer of what is possible in physical aging. Gender, however, has a strong influence on one’s chances in the marathon race, just as it has on the manner and pace with which one navigates the marathon of life. This article looks at the obstacles that women, especially older women, have had to overcome in order to compete in the marathon race. It explores the ways that gender has limited their real and perceived opportunities in pursuing strenuous sports and shows how male–female dichotomies have been used historically to perpetuate patriarchal views on the ways women could and should use their bodies. Finally, it illustrates how feminist inquiry and methods of analysis can help us understand why aging women in the past have more often been seen as “eternally wounded” than as special candidates for sporting excellence in later life.

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Patricia Vertinsky

In this paper I view the history of kinesiology in America through the lens of a shifting academic landscape where physical culture and building acted upon each other to reflect emergent views concerning the nature of training in physical education and scientific developments around human movement. It is also an organizational history that has been largely lived in the gymnasium and the laboratory from its inception in the late nineteenth century to its current arrangements in the academy. Historians have referred to this in appropriately embodied terms as the head and the heart of physical education, and of course the impact of gender, class, and race was ever present. I conclude that the profession/discipline conundrum in kinesiology that has ebbed and flowed in the shifting spaces and carefully organized places of the academy has not gone away in the twenty-first century and that the complexities of today’s training require more fertile and flexible collaborative approaches in research, teaching, and professional training.

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Patricia Vertinsky

Selecting Springfield College, founding home of the International YMCA as a training ground for male dancers was an inspired choice by American modern dancer Ted Shawn given the founding credo of the College to ‘build builders of men.’ I would like to see men dancing in gymnasiums and stadiums, he claimed, so that the dance could reach again the position it held among the Greeks as the most perfect athletic accomplishment and the finest means of physical training and development. They were earnest and interesting efforts to foster an aura of ‘authentic rugged American masculinity’ for the era, given that Shawn himself was a closeted homosexual and the troupe’s lead dancer was his long term muse and lover Barton Mumaw. Scholars have shown how Shawn’s ideas about gender and sexuality became increasingly complex once he acknowledged his own homosexuality and engaged with ideas about sexual difference. His appropriation of various facets of the physical culture movement, however, and his reliance on the work and ideas of female modern dance pioneers and the physical education profession have been less noted. In this sense, Shawn was lucky, for he fell in love with dance when the art was mature enough to need a man.

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Patricia Vertinsky and Alison Wrynn

Internationally acclaimed sport historian Roberta Park was among the Academy of Kinesiology’s leading scholars. Her extensive career at the University of California, Berkeley, was a powerful example of one woman’s agency and success in the hierarchical world of higher education. Systematically opening up the breadth of embodied and gendered practices deemed suitable for examination by sport historians, Park’s pioneering scholarship helped turn a narrow lane into the broad highway of sport history. She demonstrated that it is neither possible nor desirable to study the history of medicine, health, or fitness without accounting for the body, raising provocative questions about the historical origins of training regimens for sport and exercise, and excavating the histories of the biomedical sciences to better understand the antecedents of sports medicine and exercise science. She never abandoned her faith in the importance of the profession of physical education, properly supported by scholarly enquiry, holding up Berkeley’s foundational program as a template to guide physical education’s future and grieving its demise in 1997.