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‘What is a Beautiful Body?’

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Late Ottoman ‘Sportsman’ Photographs and New Notions of Male Corporeal Beauty

image of Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication

This article examines the emergence and spread of the ‘sportsman’ genre of Ottoman photography in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Istanbul. The ‘sportsman photograph’ depicted young men posing shirtless or wearing tight-fitting athletic attire, flexing their muscles and exhibiting their bodies. These images were embedded in a wider set of athletic and leisure activities and constituted novel social and photographic practices. By tracing the deployment of ‘sportsman’ photographs in sports clubs and the press, I argue that they cemented homosocial bonds, normalized and popularized new notions of masculinity, confessionalized the male body and reconfigured the ways in which Ottoman Muslims, Christians and Jews performed and conveyed their commitment to middle-class notions of masculinity and the self.

Affiliations: 1: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Department of History and Armenian Studies Program, USA


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