Schooling Bodies: School Practice and Public Discourse 1880-1950

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Drawing extensively on primary source historical material to explore the social construction of children's bodies in Australian and British schools between 1870 and 1950, this book focuses on a matrix of discursive practices within three interlocking school sites: physical training, medical inspection and sport. They key argument is that these discursive practices were part of a process of constructing the body in that phase of modernity Foucault calls disciplinary society. The docile body produced by these practices was pliable and yet economically productive, a body that could, through close scrutiny and careful measurement, be regulated and normalised to ensure the healthy, propagation of the race and a ready supply of economically productive citizens. Until 1915, this matrix of precise, meticulous and ponderous discursive practices was on the ascendancy in Australian and British schools. However, the First World War disrupted the implementation of these practices and during the inter-war years they underwent a process of reconstruction that is illustrative of shifts in physical culture more broadly. By the end of the Second World War, these meticulous and precise practices of disciplinary society has been replaced by more liberalised forms of schooling bodies. These new practices formed the basis of contemporary practices that are only in the 1990s beginning to be challenged as physical contributes to the "new times" of postmodernity.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages160
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Australian schools
  • British schools
  • school practice


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