UBC Graduate Research

Criminals and Calisthenics: Physical Exercise as a Corrective Springmann, Veronika


Graduate student conference held December 4-5, 2009 at the University of British Columbia. Panel 4: The German Ideology – Sports and Politics in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich moderated by Lydia Jones. Abstract: "The Weimar Republic penal system introduced calisthenics or physical exercise (so-called “Freiübungen” or “Leibesübungen”) as a method of disciplining prisoners. In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault illustrated the change in the perception of the criminal’s body in the modern era. Physical suffering was no longer the intended target of punishment. Nevertheless the body remained the focus of punishment. These findings are in accordance with examinations of military drill. Nevertheless, it is at first surprising that physical exercise became a feature of daily life in the prisons of the Weimar Republic. For while physical exercise is meant to strengthen the masculine body of the soldier, the intention of modern penal practice is correction – and discipline. The criminal subject should be reformed by means of bodily exercise. Explicit physical fitness is not intended. What then are the intentions of these physical exercises? Which concepts of correction inform them? Which rules do they follow? Is physical exercise in prison meant to normalize prison life? Any examination of this disciplinary method also raises the question of the (re)production of concepts of masculinity and femininity. Using the penal system in Brandenburg as an example, I ask whether, and if so, how, a detailed look at a common prison practice can give us insight into the societal perception of criminals in the Weimar Republic." This presentation can be found at 00:22:45 - 00:41:10 in the recording. Paper read by Lydia Jones.

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