Positions and Continuities
Body Movements as Political Actors? (Kerstin Bornholdt)
Body Movements as Political Actors? Kerstin Bornholdt Where the soul of the German people acts entirely unreserved, it aspires more to rhythm than to symmetry. The opening quotation is drawn from August Julius Langbehn’s book Rembrandt als Erzieher from 1890. The book became a bestseller among the German Bildungsbür- gertum and can be linked to the völkisch movement.1 In 1923, gymnastic instructor Rudolf Bode chose to use Langbehn’s statement on rhythm as the epigraph for his collection of essays on rhythm and physical education. Rhythm, such was the claim, created a sense of belonging to a greater community. Rhythm was the movement principle that was innate to the German Volk. Through Bode and his student Hin- rich Medau, rhythmical gymnastics became “German gymnastics” after 1933 and as such an integral part of physical education in the Third Reich.2 1 For the reception of Langbehn’s book, see: Bernd Behrendt, “August Julius Langbehn, der ʻRembrandtdeutsche’”, in Handbuch zur “Völkischen Bewegung” 1871-1918, eds. Uwe Puschner and Walter Schmitz (Munich: Saur, 1999); Bernd Behrendt, Zwischen Paradox und Paralogismus: Weltanschauliche Grundzüge einer Kulturkritik in den 90er Jahren des 19. Jahrhunderts am Beispiel Au- gust Julius Langbehn (Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang, 1984). Mosse presents Langbehn as an im- portant ideological precursor of National Socialism, see: George L. Mosse, “The Mystical Origins of National Socialism”, Journal of the History of Ideas 22/1 (1961), 81-96. On Langbehn, see in addition George L. Mosse, Die Völkische Revolution: Über die Geistigen Wurzeln des Nation- alsozialismus...
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