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21 October: The Zen of Running

21 November 2007

Dr Alan Latham – UCL Geography


In June 2007, soon after the election of the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, a debate broke out in the French media about their new president's jogging habit. “Western civilization” the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut claimed on national television “in its best sense, was born with the promenade. Walking is a sensitive, spiritual act.” In contrast “Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation.” In a similar vein the daily newspaper Libération wondered “Le jogging est-il de droite?” (Is jogging right wing?). And beneath a photograph of a muscular, shirtless, iPod wearing jogger it asked rhetorically, “Qui va croire que ce grand garçon vote LCR?” (Who believes that this big boy votes LCR?). Curiously, the emergence of jogging as a mass fitness activity in the 1960s and 1970s was closely associated with its ability to engender all sorts of new ways of thinking. This lecture explores this relationship between physical activity and thought.

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