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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

What stuck with me most after our seminar today was the discussion we had about sports and the body of the sportsman. The disciplining of the body is glorified through sports through that very narrative of discipline and virtue. I guess this has its parallels in the military as well. Except in sports, there is also that myth about the liberty of the mind, the adrenaline rush that is supposed to accompany physical exercise and the aspect of sheer fun. 

Going back to the mind-body dualism:

Sports is actually an arena where this dualism is transcended through an establishment of a connection between a fit body which both results in and is a result of a virtous self, capable of disciplining his/her body. Although, one might also argue that it isn't so much "reason" or "rationality" that is celebrated through the fitness of the body but more the "honesty" or the "frankness" of the athlete who is attributed a pure quality of genuineness/naivite. Yet, I do still think that there is a sense of achieved virtue in the discourse of athletes' morality, legitimizing the concept of the "disciplinable rational mind." What is critical is that through sports we can see the body as having a positive impact on the mind, rather than being a source of adulteration for an otherwise pure force of reason. Turner talks about how the body should be conceived of as an "active component of social ontology." The physical fitness of the sportsman's body inheres a social, qualitative judgment about the mind that is associated with that body. In this sense, I find sports an intriguing arena to think about the mind-body dualism with.

In class, we talked about how body theorists from various disciplines today might have already transcended the mind-body dualism, taking for granted that this framework in fact belongs to the past. This might be so, and maybe it explains the lack of concrete formulae presented to overcome the binary opposition. Various strands of thought in the social sciences seem to have made substantial connections between the mind and the body in their assumptions when formulating theories. We've read about how feminist theory, Foucauldian approach and medical anthropology informs our understanding of the body as intimately connected to the mind - not just its own mind but thought/governance/discursive processes in the society. However, what is striking is that these connections are still based on the body of the vulnerable. Turner talks about how we must take into consideration lived experience of the body, yet his examples of lived experience continually refer to negative extremes like torture or suffering. I think that corporeal realism in the sense that Shilling talks about it can only be achieved through taking into account and problematizing the real experiences of "normal" bodies -- not even those virtous ones uplifted by sports, nor just the subjugated ones under opression of sorts. I really appreciated Turner's comments about how the body should be conceived of as an "actant" actively shaping and producing culture. This way, I think we can salvage our cultural experiences and heritage from the domination of a mythical and purely rational domain that is the mind.

Here, once again, are the links I had posted earlier this week:

1)These are photographs taken by Ayten Kaya - a (female) photo journalist from Turkey - of the Turkish Super League (1st division soccer). I apologize that the commentary is all in Turkish. The series is entitled "Different Faces of Football" and is supposed to depict the various ways in which people respond to and are parts of the game of football. We spent some time today speaking of poses and bodily shapes in photographs and how they are learned. I think these are great examples:

2) Again, this is all in Turkish and I do apologize. NBC in Turkey cooperates with a Turkish Broadcasting Agency and this photo series is from their website (NTVMSNBC). It is entitled "When time stops," and basically it is a collection of surreal poses you come across during different sporting events: