Slouch: Posture Panic in Modern America (Hardcover)

Slouch: Posture Panic in Modern America By Beth Linker Cover Image

Slouch: Posture Panic in Modern America (Hardcover)


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The strange and surprising history of the so-called epidemic of bad posture in modern America--from eugenics and posture pageants to today's promoters of "paleo posture"

In 1995, a scandal erupted when the New York Times revealed that the Smithsonian possessed a century's worth of nude "posture" photos of college students. In this riveting history, Beth Linker tells why these photos were only a small part of the incredible story of twentieth-century America's largely forgotten posture panic--a decades-long episode in which it was widely accepted as scientific fact that Americans were suffering from an epidemic of bad posture, with potentially catastrophic health consequences. Tracing the rise and fall of this socially manufactured epidemic, Slouch also tells how this period continues to feed today's widespread anxieties about posture.

In the early twentieth century, the eugenics movement and fears of disability gave slouching a new scientific relevance. Bad posture came to be seen as an individual health threat, an affront to conventional race hierarchies, and a sign of American decline. What followed were massive efforts to measure, track, and prevent slouching and, later, back pain--campaigns that reached schools, workplaces, and beyond, from the creation of the American Posture League to posture pageants. The popularity of posture-enhancing products, such as girdles and lumbar supports, exploded, as did new fitness programs focused on postural muscles, such as Pilates and modern yoga. By 1970, student protests largely brought an end to school posture exams and photos, but many efforts to fight bad posture continued, despite a lack of scientific evidence.

A compelling history that mixes seriousness and humor, Slouch is a unique and provocative account of the unexpected origins of our largely unquestioned ideas about bad posture.
Beth Linker is a historian of medicine and disability and a former physical therapist. She is the Samuel H. Preston Endowed Term Professor in the Social Sciences in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of War's Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America, and her work has been featured in The New Yorker, the Boston Globe, and other publications.
Product Details ISBN: 9780691235493
ISBN-10: 069123549X
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication Date: April 9th, 2024
Pages: 392
Language: English