On the Boundaries of Shame. A Qualitative Study of Situations of Overstepping Boundaries (of Shame) in Physical Education as Seen from the Students' Perspective

Ina Hunger, Nicola Böhlke


More than any other subject, teaching physical education focuses all the participants' attention on physicality: the students' bodies are at the center of instructional activities and the reference point of evaluations; the body is touched, observed, and enacted; students compare each other's juvenile bodies along normative criteria such as weight, proportionality, and fitness. Against this backdrop, physical education also seems to carry a neuralgic potential for experiencing situations that involve an overstepping of boundaries of shame. This article focuses on a study of physical education in school that retrospectively inquired into situations in physical education that students perceived as overstepping their boundaries of shame or intimacy. The data was collected by means of short written narrations and analyzed using methods of sequential analysis. The findings show that, from the students' point of view, boundaries of shame are transgressed in various ways within the context of physical education: by exposing the body in swimming lessons, the regular touching of the body by the teacher, and so forth. The students are aware that the situations that they perceived as overstepping their boundaries can in principle be explained on didactic grounds or be characterized as "normal" by reference to common practice in sports.


school-class research; physical education; school sports; students' perspective; overstepping boundaries; shame; shame boundary; infringements; experiences in school sports; short written narrations; methods of sequential analysis

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-18.2.2623

Copyright (c) 2017 Ina Hunger, Nicola Böhlke

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