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Representing valued bodies in PE: a visual inquiry with British Asian girls

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journal contribution
posted on 18.02.2013, 15:50 by Joanne L. Hill, Laura Azzarito
Background: Status or value in sport and physical education (PE) contexts is often associated with performances of highly proficient sporting bodies, which produce hierarchies of privileged and marginalised gendered and racialised positions. This may be communicated through text and images shared within school, physical cultures and media that young people consume. Understanding how students make sense of constructions of valued bodies in PE, and how this affects their sense of self, can assist in creating spaces for young people to experience alternative narratives. Focus: The paper’s aims are to explore varying ways British Asian girls visualise and make sense of themselves as active or sporting bodies, and what this means for their (dis)engagement in physical activity. Theoretical framework: This study draws on a feminist poststructuralist approach concerning the ways in which young people create multiple subject positions through negotiating or rejecting verbal and visual narratives about physical activity and girlhood. Methods: The data draws from a one-year collaborative visual ethnography conducted with 25 students aged 13–14 in a predominantly British Asian urban secondary school in the UK. In this research, student-participants were included in the data production through being asked to create photographs over a two-week period that represented their views of valued bodies in physical activity contexts in and out of school. Focus group interviews used participant-driven photo elicitation techniques to talk through the images. Findings: In this paper, two British Asian girls’ photos enabled them to talk about, analyse, and reflect on valued or sporting bodies that they saw in visual media. The girls illustrated their performances of constrained or empowered physicalities, within a physical culture that values, among girls, racialised performances of active but feminised bodies. Many girls placed their physical activity significantly in school, and saw sporting bodies as male and elite. Where students do not associate people like themselves as sporting bodies, there may be implications for their continued involvement in physical activity. At the same time, girls were physically activity outside of school despite not seeing themselves as sporty. Reflecting on the invisibility of minority ethnic women in sports media, this research suggests that greater representation may enable young minority women to see themselves and people like them as valued bodies in sport and physical activity.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


HILL, J.L. and AZZARITO, L., 2012. Representing valued bodies in PE: a visual inquiry with British Asian girls. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 17 (3), pp. 263-276.


Routledge (© Association for Physical Education)


SMUR (Submitted Manuscript Under Review)

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This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article whose final and definitive form, the Version of Record, has been published in the Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy [Routledge (© Association for Physical Education)], available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/17408989.2012.690381