Sport and the Body

Authored by: Jaquelyn Osborne , Chelsea Litchfield

Routledge Handbook of Sport History

Print publication date:  September  2021
Online publication date:  September  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367331733
eBook ISBN: 9780429318306
Adobe ISBN:


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In sport, the human body is a common denominator. The body’s capabilities are praised, celebrated, even coveted; moreover, the human body is the subject of much debate and regulation. From the contentious classifications of disabled bodies for competition to the seemingly insurmountable (and rigidly defended) nature of binary sex categorization, the body has shown itself to be the subject of innumerable debates about inclusion and, too regularly, exclusion. While sociologists and philosophers of sport have readily engaged in scholarship related to the body in all number of contexts, historians have been seemingly less enthusiastic. However, there is a solid body of work related to the body in physical education (and often, by extension, in sport) considered by educationalists and sport historians. 1 The history of the body in sport is necessarily underpinned by the philosophy and sociology of the body through time, and certainly on the value placed upon the body, or indeed certain bodies, at those times. There is a convergence of social science approaches in the examination of the body with philosophical, religious, and educational views and, of course, with intersecting histories of the body – political, sociological, economic, and medical among others.

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