Sport in Ethnography: Haze, Crises, and Wonder

Dan Parnell and Elena Balcaite

Sport has an unrivalled capacity to evoke raw human emotions, exceptional mental capacities and unique bodily experiences. It exposes human pain, suffering, ambition, and vigour with an extraordinary intensity and integrity, leaving a deep-rooted mark on the lives of its practitioners and observers alike. By the same token, sport is also just another institutionalised and corporatized realm — a round-a-clock phenomenon devoid of meaning and consumed in bite-size pieces. Given the stories of fallen heroes, corruption, athletic and administrative misconduct, and post-GFC social and cultural conditions, sport not only reflects, but on many occasions escalates and amplifies the political divisiveness and uncertainty of today.

The width and depth of an ethnographic lens are helpful in making sense of both meaningful and mundane sporting encounters in a backdrop of their cultural landscapes. In recent years, ethnographies of sport and its cultures have ranged from applied investigations into talent development (Ollis et al., 2006) and necessary glances at physical practices of the marginalised and voiceless (Martos-Garciá et al., 2009), to intimate encounters with fitness sub-cultures (Andrews et al., 2005), unruly adventures of football fans (Pearson, 2012), and health promotion work of professional football clubs community sport trusts (Curran et al., 2014).

A multitude of subjects have been investigated through a diversity of ethnographic angles, including auto- (Parry, 2012; Knijnik, 2014), multi-sensory (Sparkes, 2009), multi-sited (Numerato & Baglioni, 2012), collaborative (Hoeber & Kerwin, 2013), and photo-journaling (Choi, 2006). Douglas and Carless (2009) also offered new insights on taboo issues in sport through ethnographic fiction. The variety of approaches, while certainly widened the scope of sports-related scholarship and offered an interdisciplinary reach, at times stretch the boundaries of ethnography and its tradition to accommodate new and emerging discourses. To encourage a discussion on what ethnography can do for sport (and sport scholarship for ethnography) in the age of uncertainty and distrust, we invite contributions from different fields of sports research and of diverse ethnographic perspectives, pertaining to whether sport can restore and/or uphold its integrity and remain a source of wonder and solace in the face of its present challenges. We welcome both substantive and methodological papers as well as encourage innovative approaches and presentation styles. The possible themes include but are not limited to:

  • Sport Organisations
  • Sport Management
  • Sport Fandom
  • Physical Activity and Physically Active Body
  • Sport and Health
  • Disability and Sport
  • Sport and Exercise Psychology
  • Emotions in Sport
  • Talent Development
  • Methodology and/or ethics in Sports Ethnography

Please submit a 500 word abstract or proposal by Tuesday 28th February 2017 to both stream convenors to Decisions on acceptance will be made by 30th March 2017.