04 SES 03 F JS, Gender, bodies and risks
Joint Paper Session NW 04 and NW 08
In an increasingly complex world marked by transnationalism and globalisation, the role of health and physical cultures in everyday life is undergoing change, as people with different orientations to movement and bodies, especially its dominant Western forms, negotiate their relationships to it. Body appearances and performances such as whiteness (Flintoff & Dowling, 2019), slenderness (Walseth, & Tidslevold, 2019), and physical ability (Hay & Macdonald, 2010) are often valued within health and physical cultures in Western societies.
Two of the greatest challenges facing some countries in the UK/Europe are enabling its increasingly ethnically diverse youth populations to lead healthy and active lives, and the promotion of social cohesion in its citizens’ lifestyles amidst contestations about cultural diversity (Dobbernack & Modood, 2012). Minority ethnic youth are often identified as a ‘risk’ group in ‘deficit’ (and Western) approaches to bodies. Chinese youth in particular fall into such ‘risk’ categories, andare often silenced, or positioned as committed to STEM subjects, but uninterested in physical activity (Archer &Francis, 2005). Yet, they are often absent from research or policy initiatives.
In response to these multifaceted political, social and cultural challenges, my research has built on the limited work that examined minority ethnic youth’s health and physical cultures. This include, for example, South Asians (Stride, 2014), Black and minority ethnic groups (Flintoff,2012), and Muslim girls (Dagkas & Benn, 2006) in England. My recent research has revealed how primary pedagogical work through family influences Chinese students’ subjectivities in health and physical activity experiences (Pang, Macdonald, & Hay, 2013) and how secondary pedagogy work such as schools (Pang & Soong, 2016) and social media (Pang & Hill, 2018) through gendered and racialized discourses complicate, obfuscate, and enrich Chinese youth’s understandings and representations of their bodies.
In the presentation, I will introduce the latest Rethinking Health Experiences and Active Living (REHEAL) project in England (supported by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship 2019-2020). The project focuses on Chinese diasporic youth’s participation in health and physical cultures in the context of their everyday lives to understand whether and how they are also involved in practices of diversity and citizenship. In undertaking this task, the interdisciplinary approach of the project is underpinned by a new theoretical lens which seeks to bring together both Continental philosophical perspectives and Chinese philosophical discourses (Man, 2016). In the fields of health and physical cultures that purport diversity and inclusion, the new perspective will assist in displacing dualism, and emancipate notions of the body, from the Cartesian model. In short, an engagement in Chinese philosophy offers scope for a critical intervention for reconstructing existing scholarship on racial and gender issues, and discourses and representations around ‘risks’ related to Chinese diasporic youth’s health and physical cultures.
I will illustrate what it means to move beyond ‘epistemic ignorance’ (Rancière, 1991) by providing a collage of my recent studies that engaged in a dialogue between Western and Chinese discourses and Chinese youth’s health and physical cultures. I will also draw on Cheng’s (2019) notion of the ‘yellow woman’ and the ‘undocumentedness’ of Asiatic women’s lived experiences’ to critically engage with the contestable work of cultural norming and racialisation in relation to Chinese youth’s experiences. Building on this, I will discuss how their ‘yellow bodies’ are mute and absent in the conceptualisation of racial and gendered embodiment in health and physical cultures.
There has been limited research on the intersections of Chinese diasporic youth research and health and physical cultures; what there is has tended to be predominately quantitative in nature and with little consideration of extended analytical writing about Chinese young people’s experiences. Such quantitative analysis helps to identify patterns of differences between subjects (e.g. boys and girls, Chinese and White) and within subjects (e.g. individual change across time) but is less helpful in terms of deconstructing categorical thinking and discovering the nuances, contradictions, and everyday experiences of Health and Physical Education, sport, leisure, and physical activity within Chinese diaspora youth (Pang, 2018). In this presentation, I will also discuss the use of online mobile ethnographic methods with Chinese youth, guided by design-thinking and what this methodology offers to understanding their experiences in health and physical cultures.
The REHEAL research project recognises how complex and difficult it is to examine the relevance of diverse Chinese diasporic youths’ health and physical cultures through learning without erasing their distinctiveness that coexist within a social space. The results will raise the stakes in explorations of minority ethnic students’ voices, representations of bodies, gender and aspirations, and intergenerational socialisation by critically engaging with the contestable work of cultural norming and racialisation in relation to Chinese youth’s experiences. The conceptual framework that underpins the research will contribute to and enable the circulation of Chinese philosophical concepts as theoretical tools in current health and physical cultures research on Chinese diasporic youth. It will further offer insights into the meanings and challenges associated with the co-production of Chinese and Western forms of knowledge in efforts to understand Chinese youth’s health and physical cultures. As such, it will appeal not only to Health and Physical Educators and sociologists, but anyone working in the fields of Chinese diaspora, social justice, race, ethnicity and post-colonial thought, feminism and the sociology of the body.
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