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  • Miradas médicas sobre la cultura física en Argentina, 1880–1970 ed. by Pablo Ariel Scharagrodsky
  • Jennifer L. Schaefer
Scharagrodsky, Pablo Ariel, ed. Miradas médicas sobre la cultura física en Argentina, 1880–1970. Buenos Aires: Prometo Libros, 2014. Pp. 357. Notes and illustrations. $20.82 pb.

The twelve essays that comprise Miradas médicas sobre la cultura física, 1880–1970 explore the relationship between medical perspectives and physical practice in Argentina and consider topics ranging from education and women’s health to eugenics and disability. The volume’s chronology allows the contributors to connect physical practices with Argentine history, spanning from economic and geographic expansion in the late nineteenth century to growing authoritarianism and modernization in the mid-twentieth century. The work takes a broad definition of physical culture, and contributors expand methodologies from sports history, disability studies, history of science, and performance studies, among other fields. As a result of this methodological breadth, the anthology will interest historians of sport as well as scholars examining eugenics in the Americas, the relationship between politics and sports, and embodied national cultures.

One of the anthology’s strengths is a nuanced analysis of the relationship between gender and physical culture and attention to changing ideals of femininity and masculinity. Contributors address how conceptions of gender shaped views on physical education and how participation in athletic activity, in turn, constructed ideas about gender across the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In his chapter, Pablo Ariel Scharagrodsky develops a quantitative analysis to show how the development of physical education in Argentine normal schools included women from its inception. Patricia Anderson’s essay on the relationship between sporting culture, ideas of health and maternity, and femininity demonstrates how early twentieth-century Argentine experts emphasized aesthetic qualities including grace and harmony to define what sports were appropriate for women and exert control over the female body.

Several contributors relate sports, health, and politics in novel ways. Ricardo Martínez Mazzola analyzes how Argentine socialist movements at the turn of the twentieth century increasingly supported participation in popular sports to promote public hygiene and reduce alcohol consumption. Ariel Fresia and María Andrea Nicoletti’s essay shows how concerns about the influx of Italian immigrants during the same period shaped physical educational practices and corporeal discipline. Likewise, Ángela Aisenstein attends to nutritional education to examine how the medicalization of food interacted with tradition and custom.

Other contributions address the perceived limits or abilities of the body and how the body might be measured or categorized. Andrea Torricella’s chapter considers the [End Page 448] relationship between physical culture and photography as a means to document and evaluate the body; he demonstrates how eugenic preoccupations over the national health promoted physical exercise and correct postures. Two essays focus on adaptive sports and medical rehabilitation. Carolina Ferrante’s study on the philosophy of adaptive sports in the second half of the twentieth century and Lucía Lionetti’s work on the education of children with disabilities both show the limits of historical definitions of “normality.”

The anthology avoids the regionalism that often marks scholarship in Argentina. Instead, several essays consider the provinces or their relationship with the capital city. For example, Diego Armus’s essay on “vacation colonies” for sick children shows how urban families attempted to send even healthy children to the provincial colonies for access to better food, fresh air, and recreational opportunities. Other pieces focus on how specific provincial settings connected physical practice with military formation and national identity. Laura Marcela Méndez’s chapter engages domestic and international politics of the 1910s and 1920s to understand how scouting organizations in the southern province of Patagonia attempted to strengthen morality for the sake of national defense.

While the majority of the contributors currently work in the Argentine academy, several of the scholars were trained or work in North American or European colleges or universities; this international circulation is evident in the outward gaze of the anthology as a whole. Andrés Regianni, for example, compares and contrasts the history of eugenics and physical practice in France, Great Britain, and Argentina. Likewise, María Silvia Di Liscia and Stella Maris Cornelis...


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pp. 448-449
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