Brandes, Lea (2016):
"Playing in the Name of Life: Biopolitics and the American Play Movement." Eds. Becker, Carlo; Blanchard, Robert C.; Ewens, David R.; Habermann, Christin; Rabe, Julia; Özdemir, Elif. aspeers 9: 33-50.
Journal Article

This paper will explore the argumentation made by advocates of the American play movement during the Progressive Era. With reference to Michel Foucault’s concept of biopolitics, this paper will show that the argumentation in favor of playgrounds in America’s urban centers was, in fact, highly (bio)political. Contrary to what one might assume from taking into account the conventional historiography of the Progressive Era, the political endeavors of the American play movement (serving as an example for many other Progressive sociopolitical efforts) were not solely motivated by its advocacy’s charitable character. Analyzed on the basis of the concept of biopolitics, the arguments in favor of public provision of playgrounds will expose the movement’s true colors. These were mainly saturated with white, middle-class ideals concerning the act of play and the effects it had on children as well as on society as a whole. On the one hand, the activists sought to counteract the supposedly chaotic living conditions of urban centers by providing playgrounds for mostly immigrant children. On the other hand, they aimed at disciplining the individual bodies of these children through supervised play in accordance with Progressive ideals so that the children would eventually become productive members of society.