Baldwin, N. A., Henderson, H., Lee, S.
Body Studies Journal
Publication year: 2020


This article explores the connection of the posture portraits taken at colleges and universities as a part of modern physical education programs in the United States, in relation to the eugenics movement of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, and the underlying assumptions of what it means to be “normal.” We examine how the reification of ideologies around health and discipline using a medicalized gaze and photographic technologies led American scientists and academics of this period to pathologize gendered, racialized people, and people with disabilities as “Other.”

In this research, we engaged in a recreation of this narrative of pathology and shame by using photography and the arts — specifically dance — to refocus the gaze as well as to critique the academic discourse at the time by celebrating the body and the participatory process of creating knowledge. More specifically, in our recreation, we focused on how transparency, agency and choice render bodies as interactive “performers” and how by engaging thoughtfully posed movements, we can make art from data, from history, and from a process of de-literalizing and de-othering.


  • Art, Eugenics, Gender, Healthism, Modernism, Physical Education, Postmodernism, Posture, Science