Patricia Vertinsky


Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

On the resiliency of sex testing in sport (2020)

In 2009, a controversy at the World Championships of Athletics forced a new reckoning in sport with the issue of sexual difference and competitive fairness. The winner of the women’s 800m event, South African Caster Semenya, was subjected to so-called ‘sex testing’ procedures, the primarily physiological search for markers of maleness and femaleness in the bodies of athletes competing in the women’s category. While extant literature has focused on the representation of sex and gender differences and the repercussions of such discourses for sport policy and athletes, the current study addresses the resiliency of sex testing in sport – its ability to persists despite the ethical, scientific, and political problems that have made sex testing a controversial policy in every era. Using methods adapted from Actor-Network-Theory (Latour, 2005), this project uses archival and anthropological data to trace the persons, artifacts, elements and processes that contribute to the “settlement of controversies” (p. 64) regarding sex testing in sport at moments when its viability is in doubt. A close examination of the changes made to policy following three cases of sex testing controversies – from, respectively, the 1960s, 1990s, and the 2009 event – reveals that the viability of sex testing policy depends on a network of linkages that connect biological knowledge about sex difference with competitive fairness. The resiliency of sex testing’s network is revealed through the work of establishing, challenging, and reworking these connections in ways that either support or undermine sex testing policy in a given place and time. By comparing their rationales and methods, the current research identifies the ideological pillars that keep sex testing policies stable, even through changing understandings of sexual difference and fair competition, and the actors/aspects of the policy that give it the flexibility needed to change with the times and to therefore persist. This research contributes to a new understanding of the mechanisms by which social and biological knowledge interact to produce, reproduce, and alter sex testing policies for sport.

View record

A case study of the BalancedView course: addressing weight stigma among health care providers in British Columbia (2018)

Growing evidence shows weight stigma as a problem in health care settings. However, there remains a lack of conceptual clarity – particularly regarding if and how the medicalization of weight is implicated in weight stigma – and a gap in knowledge about how to successfully reduce weight stigma in health care. The research questions that guided this study were thus:• What are the different ways that weight stigma in health care can be conceptualized?• What strategies can be employed to reduce weight stigma among health care providers?These questions were explored through a mixed methods case study of the development and implementation of an online course on weight stigma for health care providers in British Columbia called BalancedView, sponsored by the Provincial Health Services Authority. Using participant observation, document analysis, a focus group and semi-structured interviews, I examined how health care stakeholders who developed the course, and participants who went on to take the course, conceptualized weight stigma. I evaluated the effects of the course on 249 participating health care providers through questionnaires before and after the course. Using interviews with course participants and documentary analysis of qualitative comments made by participants during the course, I also explored what was most helpful about the course and why.Following a thematic analysis, I show how weight stigma was conceptualized as a process involving biased attitudes and beliefs that lead to discriminatory behaviours and adverse outcomes. It was perceived as a causally complex issue, with a relationship to emotions. The extent to which the medicalization of weight was viewed as part of weight stigma was a divisive topic in the development stage of the course. However, many participants who took the course reflected later that after learning about medicalization they saw harms in medicalized approaches to weight in health care. This study contributes to the currently limited literature on weight stigma reduction in health care. I demonstrate how an online course on weight stigma that uses multiple stigma reduction techniques had a positive effect in terms of reducing participants’ weight bias and discuss what essential elements within such interventions should be.

View record

Women who fly: aerialists in modernity (1880-1930) (2014)

Around 1900, Charmion (alias Laverie Vallée) introduced a provocative ‘trapeze disrobing act,’ combined with feats of strength to her audiences in vaudeville theaters in New York. She was one of a wave of female aerialists whose performances quite literally ‘flew’ in the face of Victorian values. Trapeze artists in circuses and in vaudeville theaters, as well as stunt flying aviators showcasing their courage and abilities during local fairs or aerial exhibitions from the 1910s on, indeed pushed the boundaries of what was deemed possible in terms of the human body’s physical capacities while challenging traditional notions of gender, race, class, and sexuality through their unconventional performances. In this study I explore three cases of aerialists who navigated both the demands of managers/spectators for spectacular and titillating acts and their personal aspirations within the confines of the increasingly capitalist entertainment industries in the West between 1880 and 1930. Besides Charmion, my study takes shape around the performances of “Barbette” or Vander Clyde who took Parisian theaters by storm with an amalgamation of trapeze artistry and female impersonation in interwar France; and Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to gain a pilot license and to set up her own flying shows throughout the United States in the 1920s. For each case study I conducted exhaustive archival searches and analysed relevant newspaper articles, magazines, show reviews, photographs and silent film.I draw on Mikhail Bakhtin’s concepts of the carnivalesque and the grotesque, and on Victor Turner’s concept of liminality to illustrate how aerial performances between 1880 and 1930 functioned as sites of creative resistance, opening up possibilities for a rethinking and redefinition of social categories of gender, race, class, and sexuality. I show how the performances of Charmion, Coleman and Barbette simultaneously reflected and challenged the anxieties and optimism of a society forced to revisit traditional beliefs regarding the gendered/racialized/classed/sexualized body. In demonstrating how these performers helped question modernizing beliefs regarding the human body’s capacities, and the female body’s physical abilities and appearance in particular, I argue they suggested new types of embodied agency for both women and men at the time.

View record

Governing Risk, Exercising Caution: Western Medical Knowledge, Physical Activity and Pregnancy (2009)

No abstract available.

Building a Body for Governance: Embodying Power in teh Shifting Media Images of Arnold Schwarzenegger (2008)

No abstract available.

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Ekiden racing: examining the intercultural sporting experience of Canadian elite runners in the Japanese context (2020)

Western perspectives on sport in Japan have tended to overlook running as a manifestation of a unique set of features influenced by environment and cultural attitudes. Running is exhibited through a variety of cultural displays in events, competitions, and training philosophies, with the runner embodying a system of performativity relevant to his or her cultural context. This offers us an opportunity to explore Japanese running culture by considering the cultural context which has encouraged, supported and enticed Japan’s proclivity for long- distances running. The lacuna of historical works concerning the social and cultural considerations related to Japanese running culture elicits an invitation to revisit Japanese sporting traditions through the experiences of Canadian athletes, as they navigate the Japanese running cultural context. Ekiden racing particularly embodies these sentiments: it is a long distance, multistage relay running event, invented in Japan which is credited with being responsible for propelling a national long-distance ‘running craze’. Despite its popularity in Japan, and the fact that international elite athletes are selected and invited to participate in these events, there has been little academic study of the sport of Ekiden racing. We know even less about the experiences of those who lived, trained and competed in a running event steeped in Japanese culture and tradition. Ekiden racing has become particularly alluring to numerous elite Canadian athletes who are attracted by this challenge to participate in a distinctive running culture revered by the Japanese. My study examines Ekiden racing through a transcontinental lens, in particular through the eyes of two elite Canadian runners who were invited to compete in Japanese elite running events. Sue Lee participated in Japan from 1990-1992, and Jeff Schiebler between 1996 and 2005. This study is designed to trace the experiences of two elite Canadian athletes in the Japanese running context and has encouraged me to revisit aspects of running culture from two main perspectives: 1) An exploration of the origins and cultural significance of long-distance running in the Japanese context, and 2) The ways in which Canadian runners have experienced Japanese running culture.

View record

Counterflows of knowledge: the transnational circulation of physical culture practices between India and the West during the early 20th century (2019)

The aim of this study is to examine the transnational flows of physical cultures,particularly physical education, yoga, and modern dance, between India and the West during theearly decades of the 20th century. I develop two case studies where individuals became involvedin circulating dance and physical education practices between India, Western Europe and theUnited States, illuminating how colonial powers conceived of European modernity in oppositionto and in conjunction with the ‘Orient’ and how Indian nationalists developed a monolithiccultural identity along rigid lines of the nation state.The first case study examines how the YMCA (‘Y’) brought American sport and physicaleducation; particularly ideas around Muscular Christianity, to India in the form of missionarywork. It focuses primarily on the efforts of the physical educator Harry Crowe Buck, who arrivedin India in 1920 to direct the YMCA School of Physical Education in Madras. The second caseexamines the career of Indian modern dancer Uday Shankar (1900-1977), and his involvement inshaping Western ideas around Oriental dance and Indian culture in the 1930s. It also considershis reception in India where he received harsh condemnation from the public because hisperformances were not sufficiently grounded in Indian dance traditions.Drawing from studies in postcolonial and physical cultural theory, this thesis pays specialattention to the areas of Indian physical education and modern dance during the late colonialperiod. Physical cultures warrant attention for their importance in shaping colonial andnationalist thought, as the body became critically important in the ‘articulation of imperialideologies and in the often-fraught dynamics of cross-cultural contact’, particularly in shapingideas around gender roles, race relations and national identity in India and the West, thatpersisted beyond the colonial period. In my arguments, I employ Edward Said’s contrapuntal approach, which involves examining documents with an awareness of the complex social, political and cultural circumstances that underlie them. This approach influences how the case studies are written, as I pay explicit attention to the contexts of British imperialism and Indian cultural nationalism, and the ways they intersected during the early 20th century.

View record

Understanding the perspectives of Syrian refugee women toward their health and physical activity needs as they become integrated into Canadian society (2017)

The inclusion of migration as a predictor of health is seen as a significant advancement in Canadian health research. However, further investigation concerning the health outcomes of different immigrant groups has been suggested, especially refugees whose health statuses may be lower than voluntary migrants (Vang et al., 2015). Physical inactivity has been reported by the female immigrant population as a result of migration stressors and barriers to participation in Western communities. With a specific focus on Syrian refugee women, this study used a feminist interpretive approach to examine their health and physical activity needs as they settle into Canadian society. The purpose was to examine how their views and lifestyles have been influenced by their integration into Western culture as well as to determine the roles of settlement-related support systems in this transition. Using qualitative research methods, Syrian women who have recently settled in the Metro Vancouver region (n=11,
View record

The Iron Bar. Episodes in the Modern History of Prison Physical Culture, Body Typing and the Ban on Weight Lifting in American Correctional Institutions. (2015)

The aim of this study is to explore the modern history of prison physical culture in order to better understand how perceptions of the muscular criminal male body have influenced the construction of prison physical culture and opportunities for physical activity in American correctional institutions. My focus on the recent weight lifting ban in the United States is designed to appraise how criminological knowledge of the muscular criminal male body has influenced penal policy over time. Through a selection of specific historical episodes in prison physical culture from the late 18th century to current correctional practice I evaluate the complicated interplay between penology, criminology, somatotyping, politics, prison physical culture and the enactment of the legal ban on prison weight lifting in 1994. Working from a critical socio-historical perspective this study intends to add to the limited knowledge of prison physical culture, research on physical activity in correctional facilities and attitudes toward the corporeal experience of those confined to prison. My study has been guided by the following research questions: 1) how have historical perceptions of the muscular criminal body developed, and in turn, influenced penal policy over time? In particular, what have been the influences of body profiling and somatotyping on the role of inmate’s weight lifting in prisons?; 2) in light of this, how can we better understand the reasoning behind the enactment of the 1994 weight lifting ban placed on prison physical culture within the United States?; 3) what have been the effects of the weight lifting ban on contemporary prison physical culture? This study is an interdisciplinary project which utilizes qualitative methodologies in the collection and analysis of documents and resources from kinesiology, criminology, anthropometry, and penology. Critical discourse analysis framed by Gee (1999, 2006) and Foucauldian perspectives on discipline, punishment and power provide the framework for my analysis of prison physical culture over time and place.

View record

Ice dance reacts to the 2002 Olympic judging scandal: a study of skaters' movement practices under the new ISUJ judging system (2012)

After an international judging scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, International Skating Union (ISU) officials introduced an entirely new system for judging figure skating performances. With the goal of increasing the objectivity and transparency in the judging process substantive changes occurred in the performance requirements and evaluation criteria for all skaters. Focusing on the ice dance discipline, the purpose of this research was to analyze ice dancers’ movement practices and the ways in which they have been influenced by the new judging system. Additional analysis also considered the role of gender in ice dancers’ potentially changed practices. With these goals in mind, I draw upon Massus’s (1973) notion around ‘techniques of the body’ and Bourdieu’s (1992) concept of ‘habitus’, which suggest that by looking at the movement practices of ice dancers we can see how they are influenced by the social relations in which they are embedded, including historical and cultural traditions, and by authoritative groups such as the ISU. Considering the role of gender in ice dancers’ movement practices, I also examine the social construction of masculinity and femininity in skaters’ movements and how these embodied gendered practices are influenced by the new judging system. Furthermore, using Foucauldian theories of power, normalization, rank, and self-regulation I explore how ice dancers are disciplined into performing particular movement practices, performance narratives and skating styles and the ways in which they are reinforced. Data collection included a documentary analysis of the ISU judging system focusing on the technical rules in regard to the ice dance discipline as well as semi-structured interviews with figure skating experts and skaters themselves. Interviews with the skaters also included a video analysis component on one of their competitive performances. The findings revealed the dramatic changes in ice dancers’ movement practices under the new judging system and how these changed practices have contributed to a more athletic discipline where there is now a strong focus on technical requirements. Additionally, the findings highlighted the conservative and stereotypical displays of gender in skaters’ movement practices and performance narratives, which continue to prevail under the new judging system.

View record


Membership Status

Member of G+PS
View explanation of statuses

Program Affiliations

Academic Unit(s)


If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.


Planning to do a research degree? Use our expert search to find a potential supervisor!