The postmonolingual turn: rethinking embodiment with New Confucianism in bodily education and research

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The study of the body remains dominated by Western scholars examining Western bodies and using Western conceptualisations of the body. Though mainstream sociology of the body research is founded within dualisms, often privileging one side of a binary opposition at the expense of another, a thread within Chinese philosophies cut across such dualistic categories. This paper aims to reinvigorate this thread by the ‘turn to’ a postmonolingual approach, using New Confucianism to consider the challenges and implications for bodily education and research in three ways. First, this paper draws on a postmonolingual lens to extend current debates and limitations of embodiment literatures. Specifically, it provides examples of how thinking with New Confucianism in educating the body could help shift the academic landscape. Second, it offers an account of navigating through the ‘turns’ in order to reach for the ground of New Confucianism thinking in bodily education. Thinking through a postmonolingual lens with a focus on New Confucianism indicates a departure from Western approaches that have informed a Euro-American centric tradition of research. Such a shift reorientates thinking around postpositivist research that continues to perpetuate dualism and fails to capture the complexity, ambivalence and entangled relations of our embodied lives. Last, it highlights the revelations in how Chinese philosophical concepts can bring to challenge dominant Western notions of performance culture predicated upon binary oppositions and more broadly the privilege of the body over mind and emotions. Thinking about bodily education with New Confucianism this paper points to the potential to decenter normative assumptions and reshape the usual contours of the binary bodily praxis. It concludes by considering the potential and future directions when drawing on New Confucianism as a theoretical framework to rethink bodily education and research in the West.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)893-905
Number of pages13
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number8
Early online date12 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions [grant number 796282].


  • bodily education
  • Chinese philosophy
  • dualism
  • Embodiment
  • New Confucianism
  • postmonolingualism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Education
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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