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Training the Body to Participate in the Public Sphere

The “ideal public sphere” is theorized as a social space where people participate equally in the resolution of common problems and resist oppression, but in praxis it is a space of racial and cultural inequities. This interdisciplinary study uniting the fields of Geography, Communication, and Health Sciences explores solutions for equalizing the public sphere by analyzing how training the body influences public sphere participation. Training is examined in three specific arenas where the collaborators have ongoing research programs: the Minneapolis salsa dance community, the HIV/AIDS community in India, and the adventure education arena in Colorado. We conceptualize these sites as microcosms of the larger public sphere, suggesting that training in these “microspheres” makes participants more conscious of themselves and their role in the community, which then influences how participants engage in the larger public sphere. At each site qualitative methodologies are used to (a) document how bodies are trained; (b) identify multiple levels at which training influences individuals; and (c) analyze tensions arising from the training process. Studying these microspheres allows us to extend the public sphere literature to new material arenas, showing how the corporeality of the body can produce knowledge on how to create a more equitable public sphere.

Rebecca de Souza (Communication, UMN-Duluth), Principal Investigator
Co-PIs: Adam Pine (Geography UMN-Duluth) and Mark H. Zmudy (Health, Physical Education and Recreation, UMN-Duluth)

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