‘Fit for modernity’ : Sport as embodiment of progress, vitality and identity, 1900-2000

From 1900 onward, sport and physical culture became central cultural expressions of a new lifestyle and mindset in the Netherlands. Similar to Great-Brittain, Germany and the US, fitness and physical skills became key for new conceptualizations of individual and generational identity. The sporting body signified vitality, resilience, progress and an international mindset. A new generation of young men and women thus expressed distance to conservative, static and provincial 19th-century society, while simultaneously touching upon changing ideals of citizenship and nation. This was met with class, gender and confessional resistance, but also produced pluralistic appropriations. Another acceleration of modernity after WW II again produced new sport-related identity markers, both on an individual, collective and national level. This research focused on the divergent ways in which sports and physical culture functioned as representations of modernity, which individual actors and social groups were claiming to be fit for modernity, and how sports and physical culture could function as new markers for inclusion and exclusion in Dutch society.

Researcher: Marjet Derks


Start: 2014