The term “physical culture” is, first of all, associated (referring to the etymology of the word “culture” from the Latin “colo,-ere”, meaning “to cultivate”, “to inhabit” or “to honor”) with cultivation and taking care of the human “physis” – obviously in the context of social and natural environment. What matters in physical cultural reflection is not movement as such – as a purely physical phenomenon – but only such a form of movement which has been cultivated and attributed with conventionalized social values of symbolic and autotelic character. Biological sciences connected with the human being are traditionally – after MacFadden, among others – counted among physical cultural sciences. Because of the bodily foundations of human physical activity, they perform a significant cognitive function: they describe natural foundations of special forms of movement, but they are not offering knowledge of cultural character. As there are no values in the human being’s nature, the biological sciences within the institutional field of physical culture can with their separate methodological and theoretical assumptions only offer an auxiliary, supportive function. Physical cultural sciences are primarily dealing with the significant relations between humans in physical cultural practices, with knowledge of an axiological (ethical and aesthetical) and social (philosophical, sociological, pedagogical, historical or political) character. The alleged superiority of biological sciences within physical cultural sciences and the connected marginalization of the humanities – which constitute, after all, a necessary and hence an unquestionable foundation for cultural studies – is, therefore, a clear challenge in the institutional field of physical culture.
In order for the study of culture to be recognized as an autonomous subject, a profile of the discipline is necessary which clearly defines its purpose and its distinct, preferred goals, fields and topics. The suggestion is to establish the objectives based on three key issues: ‘What does it mean to act culturally?’, ‘What is cultural order?’ and ‘What determines cultural change?’ In the second half, I will present Hartmut Böhmes’ suggestion taking up preferred fields of cultural analytical work and supplement it with cultural sociology fields. The third part concerns a contemporary analytical profile of the study of culture, seen in society and cultural critique, especially in analysis of symbolic power.
My short article is a critical comment on Hartmut Böhme’s position paper „Perspectives of cultural studies in historical and contemporary analytical perspective“. I share Böhme’s conviction that research projects in the broad and blurred interdisciplinary field of culture studies must be grounded in a flexible theoretical plot. However, Böhme’s paper does not meet this challenge. I try therefore to suggest two trajectories of significant importance in a paradigmatic way: On the one hand, the always controversial definitions of culture are scrutinized, thereby relying on a context-sensitive concept of „difference“ that allows grasping culture as a permanent and interference-prone process of translations. On the other hand, I focus on the impact, agency or effectualness of things against the background of a symmetrical anthropology and the actor-network-theory. In both cases, the analysis is orbiting around the notion of „cultural practices“ by demonstrating how tightly the media turn and the ontological turn are theoretically intertwined.
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