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Photography as a pedagogical tool for shedding light on ‘bodies-at-risk’ in physical culture

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In Western countries, given current global public health imperatives around obesity, the lack of engagement with and compliance to normative health-related physical cultures is a concern for young people of ethnic minority backgrounds (particularly females) and low socio-economic class. These groups represent cohorts of young people more likely to be physically inactive and unhealthy compared to other groups, and thus are framed as ‘bodies-at-risk’ or portrayed as a ‘problem’ by neoliberal projects of the body in public health. What remains hidden in the enterprise of the fit body produced by a Western physical culture of healthism, however, is how sport and physical and health education in schools continue to reproduce inequalities of gender and race/ethnicity that heavily bear upon some young people's bodies in local sites. To problematise the body-at-risk discourse, this visual participatory ethnographic research conducted in inner-city, state-funded schools in the Midlands region of the UK, aimed to reveal the visual dimensions of embodiment as expressed by young people of different ethnic backgrounds in the local contexts of their lives. Student-researchers used digital cameras to create visual diaries entitled Moving in My World to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas, and to ‘speak for themselves’ about their knowledge of their own bodies, sharing their embodiments. What moving in their worlds meant to young people varied significantly based on differences of cultural background, gender negotiations and opportunities for, and choices in, their engagement with physical activity. The student-researchers’ visual diaries captured a heterogeneity of meanings about the moving body that young people construct and represent in their creation of the hybrid physical cultures of their daily lives.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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