Performing History: Reconstructing British Nineteenth-Century Physical Exercises

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by Lotta Vuorio

Abstract:
When exploring the history of the body and experiences, the question of how best to represent embodied, historical knowledge turns out to be crucial but sometimes quite difficult to manage with conventional ways of representing history. The task of translating embodied experiences of the past into textual form can appear as an incomplete way of forwarding the historical knowledge to the interested audience. Sometimes words are not enough but other, unconventional, and even irrational research methods and forms of representations might be valuable. In this paper, I examine the possibilities that re-enacting and videorecording nineteenth-century physical exercises can offer for the researcher as a method of recovering and representing historical embodied experiences. I argue that such recordings support better understanding of the material-discursive and varying experiences of physical exercises in nineteenth-century Britain. I also propose that reconstructing history through videography can all in all be a valuable method for representing embodied histories.

The video presentation will be featured here.

Author’s bio:
Lotta Vuorio is a PhD researcher at the University of Helsinki. Her research focuses on the moving body in nineteenth-century Britain, and the lived experience of physical exercises in various forms. She is interested in experimental ways of representing the past in the present, which is why performativity touches upon her research both in theory and in practice. She is also known for her Finnish history-themed podcast called Menneisyyden Jäljillä (On the track of the past) that popularises historical research and gives voice to fascinating topics that are highly significant in this day.

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