ARI Working Paper Series
WPS 266 The YMCA’s “Moral Empire”, Public Health, and Masculinity in Interwar East and Southeast Asia: China, the Philippines, and Japan
Publisher : Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
Publication Date : May / 2018
Author/Speaker: Stefan HUEBNER
Keywords : YMCA, Interwar Period, Japan, China, Philippines, Sport, Muscular Christianity

This paper addresses the North American YMCA’s transnational “moral empire” in East and Southeast Asia, focusing on the topics of public health, fitness, and masculinity. The main period covered are the 1920s, when the YMCA had already established an institutional network in China, the Philippines, and Japan. I analyze how the growing scientificity of physical education in the U.S., which during the Progressive Era (1890s-1920s) turned into an academic discipline, influenced the YMCA’s attempts to improve public health and fitness in Asia. In particular, I investigate how the North American YMCA intended to assimilate Asian physical education experts into the corresponding framework of amateur sports ideals that defined YMCA masculinity. Doing so reveals the agency of not yet scrutinized Asian physical education experts and shows their ways of supporting, challenging, or resisting the North American YMCA’s often hegemonic position in scientific physical education in the China, the Philippines, and Japan.