Obesity discourse and the crisis of faith in disciplinary technology

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Gard, M & Kirk, D 2007, 'Obesity discourse and the crisis of faith in disciplinary technology', Utbildning & Demokrati: Tidskrift för Didaktik och Utbildningspolitik, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 17-36.

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According to Kirk (1998) (following Foucault) a shift in corporeal power has been underway since the late 18th century in many ‘western’ countries, from an external form of power and locus of control to an internal form and locus. In light of the increased volume of discourse around the alleged obesity crisis (Gard & Wright 2005) we revisit and attempt to update Kirk’s thesis about the regulation of bodies in schools; is the widespread concern about an obesity crisis producing new ways of managing and disciplining children’s bodies? We explore in some detail a case study of curriculum development in Health and Physical Education in Ontario, Canada where we argue that the grades 1–8 syllabus trades the productive compliance and liberal individualism of previous eras for a new layering of physical education discourse and the production of cheerfully courteous and responsible individuals. We complete this analysis by asking whether this curriculum development in an era of obesity discourse signals a crisis of faith in disciplinary technology. We end by noting the need for the retention of spaces within school physical education where young people can question assumptions about corporeality.

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