- Sport, Physical Culture, and the Moving Body: Materialisms, Technologies and Ecologies ed. by Joshua Newman et al.
Research in the new materialisms has undergone explosive growth in the twenty-first century. In the field of physical culture, this refers to the study of both the material and social worlds in the sociocultural analysis of physical activity of the human body. This edited publication by established and early-career scholars sets out to provide such an analysis and succeeds, both epistemologically and structurally. Contributing authors looked for "various strands of new materialist thought," and the authors "turned towards new epistemological frames [through] which we can understand matters of physical culture" (17). [End Page 80]
The book is introduced by an overview of the current literature, theoretical underpinnings and historical origins of new materialisms by drawing on standard works of, inter alia, Bordieu, Derrida, Deleuze, Merleau-Ponty, Spinoza, and Williams. The editors assembled an impressive pool of scholars who are noted experts in sport fields of cultural, gender, and political studies. This publication extends the recent increased focus on studies in materiality (18) by focusing on "the flesh, (big and small) data and landscapes that are sculpted, honed and enhanced for health, beauty and competition" (vii). This highly scholarly work, organized logically in three parts—ontologies, body technologies, and body ecologies—and grouped into fifteen chapters, places the human body at the center of inquiry. The publication explores "how the material fleshiness of bodies and the materiality of objects and the environment constitute the ground, the matrix and the coconstituent agents of the discourses and symbolic systems that organise and give meaning to our lives" (viii). Grant Farred's afterword neatly sums up the publication with the idea that "new" materialism is a challenge to those "resilient forces that persist and is residual" (337). New materialisms, therefore, are nothing more than "looking at materialisms of old (Marx, Nietzsche, Spinoza, etc.) that chart new courses of study for the sporting and physical cultural body and its linkages" (17). The "new" does not start with the here and now. Ancient Chinese thinkers grappled with "relations of matter, senses and social organization," Aztec intellectuals grappled with the concept of Ometeotl (the unity of the universe) and Maori principles on the natural environment served as an identifier for the people (14).
Given the limited scope available for a review, only a few chapters can be foregrounded for discussion. Gavin Weedon argues in "Telomore Biology in an Age of Precarity: A 'New' Materialist Experiment in a More-Than-Human Kinetics" that the coined term "new" materialisms is regrettable and is best understood "as denoting the contemporary coming-together of insights from feminist theory, eco-philosophy, post-structuralism, posthumanism, 'older' materialisms, genetics, quantum physics, life sciences and neurosciences, indigenous knowledges, Buddhism, queer theory, science studies and cultural studies" (109). Weedon could also add decolonization theories to this list.
A central theme running through the publication is the denial of a forced distinction between reason and nature. This is highlighted specifically in the second chapter by Mary Louise Adams, who adds to critiques of contemporary fitness cultures by looking at the impact of digitization and its relationship to approaches to the body, physical activity, and human movement (69). Adams opens the chapter brilliantly with a decisive attack on the return of the Cartesian dualism and forced distinction between reason and nature. This distinction is all around us, especially in the biomedical approaches to the body as an amalgam of separate systems and parts (69). This is of special interest to many sport science and kinesiology departments that are increasingly located in faculties of medicine. In this environment, "physical activity is often understood as a health intervention and fitness tracking where [the individual] is encouraged to take an instrumental view of his or her body and movement … [in other words] … an objectified body" (83). Christopher M. Mcleod and Matthew Hawzen's chapter, "Body Objects, Political Physics, and...