Pierre Seurin: A mobilized actor-network in favor of methodical physical education (1941–1975) with a hygiene-based approach

Research papers
By Pierre-Alban Lebecq, Yves Morales, Jean Saint-Martin, Yves Travaillot, Natalia Bazoge

Using a pragmatic socio-historical approach, this article will analyze the influence that Pierre Seurin (1913–1983) had on French physical education (PE). Before he was appointed PE inspector, Seurin was a teacher from 1933 to 1937, a PE teacher between 1937 and 1945, and a director of the Regional Center for Physical Education and Sport (CREPS) in Bordeaux until 1965. In 1941 he joined the French Physical Education League (LFEP), which then played an active role as a network for disseminating rational gymnastics with a hygiene-based approach. The study presented here follows Seurin’s activity, in his interactions with other actors, observing how the positions he defended, and their fluctuating success, were the result of more or less shared rhetoric, dependent on constituted networks that are linked to more or less favorable social situations. He appears to have been the initiator and promoter of a “methodical” PE, merging different models in order to go beyond the simple juxtaposition of methods. Combining the expertise of a professor with that of a trainer, and holder of a PhD in PE obtained in Belgium, he played the role of an actor-network, being a spokesperson, a translator, and an active defender of the LFEP’s proposals for schools. He then sought to promote a progressive approach to learning, conducive to a greater recognition of this discipline both at school and at university level. His involvement can be observed in several debates that contribute to the structuring of the discipline, both in the epistemic justifications expressed and in the ethical choices that support them. From this point of view, his biographical journey illustrates the evolution of PE, as it is discussed and developed, from the mid-1930s to the end of the 1960s.

  • physical education
  • Seurin
  • actor-network
  • methodical PE
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