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2015 ISHPES Honorees: Bandy and Müllner

The year’s ISHPES honorees are Susan J. Bandy, winner of the Rutledge Keynote Award, and Rudolf Müllner, winner of the ISHPES Award. Both Bandy and Müllner gave keynote lectures at the 2015 ISHPES Congress in Split, Croatia.

Susan J. Bandy is the recipient of the 2015 Routledge Keynote Award. Bandy is a seasoned lecturer at the Ohio State University. Her studies focus on sport in literature, women in sport, and gender and the body in sport. In addition to being a senior lecturer, Bandy has also authored and edited numerous works about her studies. With Gigliola Gori, she is co-editor of the biennial issue of The International Journal of the History of Sport devoted to Sport, Women, Society: International Perspectives.

Bandy’s keynote talk at the 2015 Congress in Split was on “The Intersections of Sport History and Sport Literature: Toward a Transdisciplinary Perspective”.

As scholars embraced a “cultural turn” in the humanities and social sciences in the 1980s, they began to use a vast array of new theories in these fields of knowledge with particular attention to language, symbols, and systems of representation. This “cultural turn” had a considerable influence on research in sports studies as historians and sociologists began to examine the cultural dimensions of sport with the viewpoint that sport is a reflection or mirror of culture, a product of social processes, and, more recently, that sport has a powerful effect upon culture. Sports historians, in particular, began to consider the cultural, historical, political, social, and symbolic, significance of sport. Concurrent with these considerations was a need to approach research from interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary perspectives and to include a variety of sources for the writing of sport history, including creative texts such as literature and film. Although historians had used literature for many years in their analysis of sport in ancient Greece and Rome, sport historians, in general, had rarely considered the use of literature as a valid source for the writing of sport history. In the recent past, however, sport historians in Australia, Europe, New Zealand, and North America, most notably, who have been influenced by postmodern ideas, the new historicism, and the mediated nature of modern sport, have begun to consider creative texts, (novels most predominantly) and film in the writing of sport history. Thus far, historians have tended to appropriate literature as yet another source for the writing of sport history, equating it with other sources such as archival material. It is contended that such a use of literature is limited by the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary perspectives of recent scholarship. It is further maintained that a transdisciplinary perspective that engages with shared knowledge that exists between sport history and sport literature would enrich the work of scholars in both sub-disciplines of sport studies. In the paper, an overview of the discussion of the use of creative texts among sport historians, including the challenges of such work and noteworthy scholarship—as well as the way in which writers of fiction and poetry engage with history—is provided. It is concluded that history, literature, and sport converge in their relationship to time in an attempt to capture the ephemeral and transitory. 

The recipient of the 2015 ISHPES Award is Rudolf Müllner. The ISHPES Award recognizes those members who have made great contributions to the field of sport history through their academic work and passion for their field. 

As a decorated professor, Müllner is the head of the Section of Social and Contemporary History of Sport at the Center of Sport Science and University Sports at the University of Vienna. He is also the founder and creator of the professional sport network SPORTHISTNET. In addition to his numerous accomplishments, Müllner has published a number of high profile articles and books throughout his career. 

During the 2015 Congress in Split, Müllner spoke on “(Self-)Improvement in and through Sports – Cultural-Historical Perspectives”.

The human body in (late) modernity is an insufficient one. It has to be improved and in almost every phase of its life it is confronted with the imperative of optimization. The consequences of these developments are on the one hand the rise of sports – the proper anthropotechnic of augmentation – and on the other hand the evolution of an improvement industry with specific subfields like plastic surgery, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics or the fitness industry.

Improvement and self-improvement are very broad terms and phenomena which are currently investigated intensively by different scientific disciplines ranging from philosophy to pedagogy, psychology and the social sciences but also by economists, geneticists or computer scientists. Within the field of sport science this topic should not be discussed under natural scientific perspectives only. It should also be on the agenda of sport historians.   

This study is theoretically based on two historical-critical approaches: First on Peter Sloterdijk’s general concept of the modern man as a subject which is permanently struggling with itself, which is anxious about its shape. From this perspective improvement is interpreted as a central metaphor of modernity. Secondly on Michel Foucault’s and Gilles Deleuze’s analyzes of the disciplinary society and the society of control and especially on Foucault’s concept of “self-technologies”.  

Empirically the question of improvement will be investigated by the means of three different paradigmatic fields of movement cultures in three different historical periods.  

The first one is the invention and the establishment of systematic rational enhancement regimes in the second half of the 19th century, which can be summarized under the term physical training. The second one focuses on the formation of the big number (of bodies) as we can determine it e.g. within the “sport-for-all-initiatives” during the 1970s in Europe (especially in Germany and in Austria).Thirdly we take a look at the highly individualized fitness practices from 1980 to the end of the millennium and discuss also the post-Fordist body regimes as we can find it for example in the “life-logging–“ or “quantified-self-movement”.

At the moment it is not possible to present a theoretically closed history of improvement and enhancement with the help of physical activity. Therefore only a few significant examples of that topic should be shown to give some objections and suggestions for further investigation and discussion.