Measuring the soul: Muscular consciousness and physical health testing in early twentieth century playgrounds

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Abstract

This paper is concerned with the establishment of child psychology at the end of the 19th century and with its applied uses in the field of physical education. During this period psychology evolved from a philosophical field content with generalised statements about the human soul to a scientific field concerned with measuring and individuating the psyche. This paper focuses on how while psychology quickly laid claim to establishing the contours of normative mental health it was simultaneously deployed in the service of identifying and bolstering normative physical health. As interiority was systematically brought within the realm of science, the traditional metonymic connection between physicality and morality materialised into a new relationship between the self and its numerical existence. This relationship is explored here through an examination of physical-health testing in New York schools during the Progressive Era. My aim is to draw out the manifold ways in which psychological technologies were absorbed into spatial practice, supporting the claim of this theme issue that the proliferation of psychology can be traced through multiple governing practices and into specific geographies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-849
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Volume24
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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