1st Edition

Play in Philosophy and Social Thought

By Henning Eichberg, Signe Larsen Copyright 2019
    266 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    266 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    To understand play, we need a bottom-up phenomenology of play. This phenomenology highlights the paradox that it is the players who play the game, but it is also the game which makes us players. Yet what is it that plays us, when we play? Do we play the game, or does the game play us? These questions concern the relation between the playing subject and play as something larger than the individual – play as craft, play as rhythm, play between normality and otherness, even play as religion, as a sense of spiritual play between self and other.

    This goes deeper than the welfare-political or educational intention to make people play or play more, or to advise individuals to play in a correct and useful way. Exploring topics such as identity, otherness, and disability, as well as activities including skiing, yoga, dance and street sport, this interdisciplinary study continues the work of the late Henning Eichberg and sheds new light on the questions that play at the borders of philosophy, anthropology, and the sociology of sport and leisure.

    Play in Philosophy and Social Thought is a fascinating resource for students of philosophy of sport, cultural studies, sport sciences and anthropological studies. It is also a thought-provoking read for sport and play philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, cultural studies scholars, and practitioners working with play.

    Introduction: If the game plays the player…

    Part I: Play and Identity

    1. Laughter of the Pygmies on the racetrack, 1904. Making the "others" play
    2. Gliding body – sitting body. Playing we-identity and religion
    3. Mass plays and social movements. Playing social identity
    4. Part II: Play and Un-normal Normality

    5. Dancing joy and dancing mania – rhythmic possession
    6. Moving and playing with disability – and what is normal?
    7. Part III: Play and Craft

    8. Parkour – between craftsmanship and playfulness
    9. Part IV: Critical method: The Study of Play and the Play of Study

    10. Do we need a definition of play? Re-encounter with philosophies of games
    11. Towards a comparative phenomenology of play
    12. Play, games, sport, production. The study of configurations
    13. Play with words, play with numbers. About academic games
    14. Part V: … and play down here

    15. Nisser – the playful small people of Denmark
    16. The nose – a playground in the midst of the human face

    Conclusion: The playful human being – a challenge to philosophical anthropology


    Henning Eichberg was a Historian, Cultural Sociologist, and Philosopher. As Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern Denmark, he worked in the Centre for Sports, Health and Civil Society at the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics.

    Signe Højbjerre Larsen is Associate Professor at the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics at the University of Southern Denmark. Her research focus is on parkour, play, body culture, lifestyle sports, sociology and philosophy of sport.