Historical Social Research

Dieter Reicher: Nationalistic German Gymnastic Movements and Modern Sports. Culture between Identity and Habitus. [Abstract]

The idea of habitus refers to modes of thinking and feeling that are more unaware and spontaneous. This includes unacknowledged and unreflected we-feelings towards political entities like nations. In contrast, national identity politics differs from habitus-types of we-feelings. Identity politics stresses reflection and deliberate boundary-drawing. In this sense, the article suggests to distinguish habitus from “identity.” Thus, there will be the suggestion to differ modes of nationalism, too: culturally “filled” nationalism and culturally “empty” nationalism. According to the first mode, “culture” is regarded a central issue of identity politics. According to “empty” nationalism, the ideal of being “better” or more “successful” than others gains importance. These theoretical considerations will be discussed against the background of the empirical case study focusing on nationalistic gymnastic movements in Germany and in Austria. This paper stresses the questions of how these nationalistic movements had coped with the growing popularity of modern sports in the end of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century and how their nationalism is related to the process of state-formation in Germany and Austria. This paper also tries to develop a clear understanding of the differences between the kind of nationalism represented by these gymnastic associations and the type of nationalism that can be observed in the context of modern sport-events.

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