Bodybuilding and Muscular Manliness – Towards a Global History
Thursday, September 14, 2023
This event is sponsored by the Harris German Program and the Department of History.
Sebastian Conrad holds the Chair of Modern History at the Free University of Berlin. He joined the faculty in 2010 after teaching for several years at the European University Institute in Florence. He was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, a visiting professor at the École des Hautes Études in Paris, and a visiting scholar at the University of California, Santa Barbara; in the spring 2017, he held the Theodor Heuss Chair at the New School, New York. With a training in European and Japanese history, his work has focused mainly on issues of colonialism and postcolonialism, global history, and historiography/memory. Among his recent publications are What is Global History? (Princeton University Press) 2016; An Emerging Modern World, 1750-1870 (A History of the World, vol. 4), Cambridge, Mass. (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) 2018 (edited, together with Jürgen Osterhammel); and "Greek in Their Own Way: Writing India and Japan into the World History of Architecture at the Turn of the Twentieth Century," American Historical Review 125, no. 1 (2020), 19-53.
Bodybuilding and muscular manliness – towards a global history
At the turn of the twentieth century, bodybuilding emerged as a new form of body politics that responded to the needs of social reformers, work science, and nationalist ideologues around the world. The global appeal of bodybuilding – forming both strong and beautiful bodies – is usually seen as a result of the outward spread of a European model, epitomized in the world tour of Eugen Sandow, the "father of modern bodybuilding." In this talk, I will trace the invention of bodybuilding in the 1890s, and its subsequent global career. At the same time, I will show how the resonance of the new body regime owed to changes in capitalist societies and geopolitics that manifested themselves across the globe. Bodybuilding as it emerged before World War I corresponded to the social conditions of the times – which becomes clear when comparing it to the forms of bodybuilding popular in the Schwarzenegger era.