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Kinesiology and Community Health :: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
College of Applied Health Sciences

Synthia Sydnor

Associate Professor
Kinesiology and Community Health

Synthia Sydnor

Since completing her interdisciplinary doctoral degree in the humanities at The Pennsylvania State University in 1988, Synthia Sydnor has been a pioneer in bringing the humanities—specifically a cultural-interpretive sensibility—to the field of kinesiology. She has written extensively on the cultural-historical contexts of play, ritual, and sport using cases that range from ancient Greece, postmodernity, and theology to make her arguments. "Great thinkers from Aristotle to Jean Paul Sartre have written about play, and there is a huge literature on sport sociology," Dr. Sydnor said. But scholars and players alike compartmentalize ritual, play, and sport and she wants to integrate them. She has particularly criticized common taken-for-granted ways of understanding sport, such as when modern humans proclaim sport helps forge good citizenship or world peace. As a humanities-based thinker, Dr. Sydnor is also devoted to understanding theories of writing and has explored the idea of plotlessness in ethnographic research. She says ethnographers like to have "a beginning, a middle, and an end" as well as a "eureka moment" when they pronounce the significance of a particular phenomenon to the culture being studied. In plotlessness, simply showing the phenomenon without interpreting it is enough, and allows for many different interpretations. Dr. Sydnor is proud of her many past Ph.D. students who currently hold international positions in government, academe, and business. She looks forward to continuing a strong tradition of humanistic inquiry in Kinesiology & Community Health.

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