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Anthropology of PE and Sports

Culture, PE , Sports
and Meaning
Arizobal , Jann Carlos
Lacsa, Phillip Dominic
Segura, Charlotte Hannah
• study the interaction of human culture, biology and

• concerned with the study of the individual human with

broader comparative analyses of these elements, both
across time and across different cultures.

• Cultural anthropologists demonstrated that play, sport

and physical activity are universal features of cultures
past and present

• these activities represent opportunities for assessing a

particular culture and provide a way of assessing that
culture’s qualities and social problems.

• Early anthropologists of sport Tylor and Culin, looked at

the sports and games of non Western tribal and pre-
literate peoples and developed sophisticated studies of
sport from a cross-cultural perspective.

• TAASP (The Association for the Anthropological Study of

Play), founded in 1974, signalled the growing interest in
this area of study.
• In physical education and sport this concern is
manifested in studies of human growth and development
in relation to physical activity, and increasingly in studies
of how our environment impacts our biology.

• It is in this area that scholars such as Malina have made

significant contributions to our understanding of the
significance of physical activity to normal growth and
development, and the impact that both excessive and
minimal amounts of appropriate physical activity can
have on the human organism, its structure and function.
Cultural Analysis
• Sports, as learnt behaviour, is a product of the society within which it
occurs. So sports culture encompasses sports events themselves, but
CRIMINAL LAW52 also their history, development, myths, icons, and the
social, economic and political issues surrounding them.

• Most analysts differentiate between ancient cultures, where sporting

activities are revealed by the work of archaeologists; primitive cultures
of tribal societies, for which the ethnographic studies of social
anthropologists are invaluable in revealing the meanings of rituals
attached to physical activities; emergent or developing countries, who
use sport as part of nation-building; and advanced societies where sport
has become an institution in an industrial, urban-based culture.
Cultural imperialism
• There are two distinct periods and types of cultural
imperialism. The first, which belongs to the period of
formal colonisation, led to the spread of games such
as cricket and football, as Britain and other European
nations built up their empires. By introducing foreign
games to colonial nations, and encouraging the
indigenous population to play them, imperial powers
were undertaking a process of cultural imperialism. In
addition to playing ‘native’ games, the indigenous
population were accepting the sports of the
imperialist, as well as the codes of conduct and ethos
that accompanied them. It was not simply a matter of
playing cricket or rugby, it was also accepting the
allied ideologies of Victorian masculinity fair play,
gentlemanly conduct and the word of the umpire.
Cultural imperialism
• Cultural imperialism was the exportation of colonial
ideals through the use of cultural forms such as sport.
A similar process has been evident in the years since
the end of the Second World War. It has been argued
that globalization or, as it is sometimes referred to,
Americanisation, is the contemporary form of cultural
imperialism. Although no state is formally seeking to
annex another and make it a part of an empire,
companies such as Nike, Reebok, and the NFL and
NBA, have sought to expand their market reach
around the world. In doing so they have changed cus-
toms, habits and thinking. Assisted by the media,
• The study of the history of sport, as a serious academic
undertaking, emerged during the 1960s as part of the
broader study of social history. In moving away from
the history of kings and queens, politicians and other
social elites, social historians embraced the study of
history from below.

• Historical work that has examined the importance of

sport beyond the collection of sportifacts, has taken a
wide range of approaches

• Issues such as the economic history of sport, the part

sport played in imperialism, the social impact of sport
and the history of sporting cultures have been key
amongst the main approaches.
Physical education
• Essentially, physical education is the formal
inculcation of knowledge and values through
physical activity.
• A more wide-ranging definition of physical education
would encompass instruction in the development
and care of the body, from simple callisthenic
exercises to training in hygiene, gymnastics, and
the performance and management of athletic
• Historically, it has focused on diet, exercise and
hygiene, as well as musculo-skeletal and psycho-
social development.
• Several areas constitute its sub-disciplines: these
include biomechanics, exercise physiology, sports
sociology, history, philosophy and psychology.
• A definition of sport as a structured, goal-oriented,
competitive, contest-based, ludic, physical activity
embraces most activities generally recognised as sports.
• It is located on the continuum between play and work.
• Most sports are played in a limited, defined space designed
specifically for that activity, and take place within a
prescribed timeframe, governed by bodies that set the
rules, goals, and the criteria by which success and failure
can be judged.
• Sporting competition is of three forms: ‘direct’, in which
opponents confront each other; ‘parallel’, in which
opponents take turns or compete in separate areas; and
‘attainment’, where the target is a standard which has to
be achieved.
Unlike in play, where there is little regard for victory, sport
places substantial emphasis on winning.
‘Contest-based’ infers a demonstration of superiority via
relative speed, endurance, strength, accuracy or
Although the physical is an essential part of sport, strategy is
also commonly involved, but in varying degrees, outcomes
can be influenced by chance. Those playing sport can receive
intrinsic and extrinsic rewards; the more the rewards are
extrinsic, the more sport becomes work in the sense of being
instrumental rather than consumption.
An interesting view of sport is to regard it as about achieving
certain ends often using ineffective means, for in all sports
artificial difficulties are introduced to allow the participants
to test their skills and abilities to overcome them.
• Chandler, T., Cronin, M., & Vamplew, W. (2007). Sports and
Physical Education: The Key Concept (Second ed.). P.19-20, 52-
54, 105-106, 166, 205. Retrieved July 17, 2019.