What fool would argue with that? languages of postmodern subjectivity in health, fitness, and exercise

Por: Janet Harris e Sun-yong Kwon.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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There is a relatively coherent theme that has been actively championed in the promotional discourses of health, fitness, and exercise in the contemporary United States. The theme is centered on a conceptual alliance between the languages of "subjectivity" and "liberation" in which the subjective process of searching for the inner self is articulated with the notion of liberation as a state of freedom from external constraints. This paper examines this new mode of problematizing the self and society in the U.S. as it is romanticized in a range of popular and scholarly discourses of health, fitness, and exercise. First, the notion of postmodern subjectivity is suggested as a sensitizing concept to call attention to a new cultural formation which prioritizes the necessity of one’s responsibility for oneself and one’s own life as the primary concern of individuals as well as the whole society. Second, this paper points out the lack of a critical conceptual tool to make an ideological critique of the temporally enduring (since the 1970s) and spatially universal (at least in the U.S.) prevalence of postmodern subjectivity and its popular manifestations in the field of health, fitness, and exercise. Third, it is argued that a strong and reasonable critique of this new cultural formation and its mobilization in health, fitness, and exercise needs to examine some important features of politics in postmodernity.

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