Sociology of Sport: A Global Subdiscipline in Review: Volume 9

Cover of Sociology of Sport: A Global Subdiscipline in Review

Table of contents

(24 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xxii
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Abstract

This chapter offers a comparative description of the separatist development of mainstream sociology focusing on sport-related phenomena versus the sociology of sport located within Human Movement or Sport Science departments at public universities in South Africa. Key findings relate to the production of fragmented bodies of knowledge, individual research agendas, and national funding in alignment with national development priorities that guide current neo-colonial knowledge production practices. There is a domination of political themes (pre- and post-apartheid) with more recent foci on nation building and Sport for Development and Peace which only partly respond to the call for indigenous knowledge production and critical scholarly work. The increased publications and mainstream sociological inquiry of the 2010 FIFA World Cup were not maintained as scholars continue to work in isolation. Other main sociological themes for both sectors include gender, with only a few established scholars producing critical work in response to a national call for an ‘Africanization’, anti-colonial stance in knowledge production. There seems to be an increasing trend to bridge the theory–practice divide and serve the public sphere which further pushes critical sociological work to the margins of both fields. The chapter provides a comparative analysis and critical overview of the development and current sociology of sport practices at public South African universities. It articulates the most significant discourses with global and local manifestations, and as such communicates key critical findings to guide strategic synergies and future sociological research.

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Africa

Abstract

Sociology of sport in China has evolved from being an “exotic” subject to a localized subject over the past 35 years. It is closely associated with social changes, sports policy and athletic achievement of China. As a discipline of humanitarian and social sciences of sport, it is taught in virtually all universities with sports majors. There are about 500 scholars specializing in sport sociology in the country. Textbooks written by Chinese and foreign scholars are published. Academic papers on sport sociology are often published in the 15 accredited core sports journals. The most productive authors are from universities and the developed provinces and municipalities. The established research areas of sport sociology are extensive. These include national identity, athlete mobility, Olympic legacy, sport for all, sports industry issues, feminist studies, community sport, sport for the aged and disabled, etc. However, there are few studies with critical analysis and only a few in the areas of sport and religion, sport and race, and deviance in sport in China. Various kinds of financial support at different levels are available in the country. Empirical research is common with literature review, questionnaire, case study, and interview being the most frequently used methods. However, sport sociology is not considered as a major topic but as a research direction and it is not accepted widely by mainstream sociology. The future of sport sociology is promising, but not without challenges.

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Asia

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This chapter is a collation and review of literature that can be considered to form the terrain of sports studies in India. It attempts two broad tasks: firstly, to aggregate these studies, and secondly, to predict the very possibility of a sociology of sport in India. To this end, this chapter is classified into three separate yet intertwined themes: modernity and nationalism; sub-nationalisms or regional nationalisms; and gender, masculinities, and culture. The first section looks at questions of modernity and nationalism within the Indian context through a close reading of studies on sports like field hockey and cricket. The second section is a critical look at the role of sub-nationalisms in complicating the notion of a singular nationalism, as played out in the domain of football in India. Lastly, the chapter examines questions of gender, especially masculinities, as a consistent yet plural presence in all of these literatures. These themes are neither exclusive nor all encompassing, and the chapter produces them in continuity as well as in rupture with one another. It concludes by speculating upon the possibilities and challenges for a sociology of sport in India, with suggestions for possible methodological interventions.

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This chapter introduces the development of sport sociology in Japan especially focusing on the activities of the Japanese Society of Sport Sociology (JSSS) and research by members of the society. Following a brief history, we discuss some notable and influential research in Japanese sport sociology. Then we pick up the two areas of Olympic Studies and Sport for Development and Peace to show the current situation of sport sociology in Japan. In Japan, the development of sport sociology and sport itself are tightly linked with the development of the society as a whole, especially influenced by economic factors. In regards to the future of sport sociology as well as sport, we believe that this will depend on the economic situation, although sport-related persons (except for sociologists) tend to expect much of the governmental body. Because the volume of Olympic Studies and Sport for Development and Peace research is increasing, sport sociology will achieve a certain amount of success by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics. However, we need to seek a way to maintain the momentum of sport sociology in Japan after the year 2020.

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Although Korean sociology of sport is relatively unknown to the international community of scholars, it is a mature field in Korea. Sociology of sport was first introduced in Korea in the mid-1960s when the field first evolved in North America and Europe. However, the development of the field shows different aspects from its Western counterpart due to unique cultural and environmental factors both in academia and in society. There are three major research trends that form Korean sociology of sport. First, there is the research focus on the benefit of sport and physical activity by examining empirical data using quantitative methodologies. The second group of researchers pays attention to individual experience in diverse sport fields and utilize qualitative methodologies to investigate empirical or secondary data. The third and most recent trend is a critical approach that theoretically analyzes ideologies, power relations, and identity politics in sport and society. When looking at the future, there are problems and limitations within the field in Korea. These include lack of continuity in terms of conference sub-themes, over-production of doctoral degree graduates, conservatism rooted in the field, and a danger of regarding sport policy research as an exit for sport sociologists. However, there are also possibilities and reasons for optimism. The biggest possibility for Korean sociology of sport is globalization of the field. Another significant possibility is the need for sport sociologists in planning, developing, and evaluating sport policy. Finally, diversification of the field gives ample opportunities for future research.

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Australasia

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This chapter adopts a reflective approach exploring and setting out the contrasting factors that led to the establishment of the subdiscipline in both countries. The factors included the role of key individuals and their respective academic backgrounds and specialisations within each country’s higher education system. Furthermore, attention is given to the particular circumstances in a case analysis comparison of the oldest programs in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia. This sheds light upon the factors linked to the disproportionate success profile for the sociology of sport in Aotearoa/New Zealand. An analysis of scholars and programs within each country reveals important differences aligned with the politics of funding and the variety and extent of systematic structures. Additionally, scholars’ specialisations and preferences reveal a broad offering but are primarily linked to globalisation, gender relations, indigeneity and race relations, social policy, and media studies. This work has been undertaken variously via the critical tradition including Birmingham School cultural studies, ethnographic and qualitative approaches and, more recently by some, a postmodern poststructuralist trend. Lastly, along with a brief discussion of current issues, future challenges are set out.

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Europe

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The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the development of Czech sociology of sport with respect to socio-political changes over the last 50 years. A comparative sociological approach was used to analyze books, articles, and other types of research productivity. The analysis shows that Czech sociology of sport has developed in three different periods: first, linked to the development of mainstream sociology; second, as a body of socially oriented sport research; and third, as an educational sub-discipline increasingly located in university sport faculties. However, the interest of the State in sociology has significantly decreased since 1990, which has created its own Czech-specific issues. The chapter is based on the method of literature review and, because of the author’s professional activities in sport organizations as well university research, also on a type of “auto-ethnography.”

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Compared with the history of many other countries, sport has had an exceptional role in the Finnish transformation from a young to a mature nation. Finland has a relatively long tradition in the sociology of sport. The interest has been focused on a wide range of physical activities. At the same time, the parent discipline of sociology has been a “mother” science in the field; as such the more representative term in Finland for this area is the “social science of sport and physical activity.” Finnish sociology of sport is strongly concentrated in Jyväskylä and most of the scholars in the field have been educated at the University of Jyväskylä. Recently the research in the field has spread to other universities and new perspectives have enriched the research. The critical mass of Finnish sociology of sport is not very big. Approximately 400 students have graduated in the field during its history and approximately 60 have worked in the field as professional researchers. Most of the publications in the field are for a domestic audience. The group of internationally active scholars is relative small. The variety of research themes is nevertheless wide. However, interest has continued in a few of them, and has focused on several researchers. In this respect, the most central themes have included changes in sports culture, socialization into sport and physical activities, gender and physical activities, the social significance of sport and physical activity, and organized sport movements.

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In 2008, Paul De Knop (Vrije Universiteit Brussels) stated that “in spite of the social value of sport and its role as a policy tool, human sport sciences still lack a fulfilling position in the academic world.” In Belgium and in Flanders (the northern and Dutch-speaking part of the country), the sociology of sport is still a small field of research among the sport sciences. The discipline is institutionalized within the institutes of physical education of the three universities (University of Ghent; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven; Vrije Universiteit Brussels). The scarcity of academic funding streams resulted in a focus on more applied, policy-based research in Flanders. Additionally, all institutes emphasize increasingly an interdisciplinary cooperation to connect with stronger research fields (e.g., health sciences, social studies, or international studies on sport participation). Even though each university has its own research tradition, the universities and the government cooperate in a longitudinal study on sport participation in Flanders. De Knop, who became rector of the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB) in 2008, was the first lecturer of the course sociology of sport at his university. He graduated in 1975 as licentiate in physical education and his career at the university converged with the development of the discipline. Together with Roland Renson and Bart Vanreusel (KU Leuven), he was one of the academic pioneers for the sociology of sport in Flanders.

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Nowadays, several processes help organize scholarly work about sport and physical activities in France. These include professional development activities of sport and leisure organizations; cultural innovations within sports and physical activities, which involve new spaces with new technologies; questions of public health; and questions of inclusion for marginal groups such as handicapped persons. Questions of power are important to understand each sport situation and each sport sociocultural, economic, and ecologic system. Behind the political and institutional instrumentalization of sport, the reality of social and cultural changes is rarely clear. Strong social, cultural, and economic forces continue to govern sports and seem to be more and more prominent. When sport scandals emerge, the media reveal the case, notably but not exclusively in the context of commercial interests. The possibility for a caring and respectful physical education experience and to improve inclusion for all (Gardou, C. (2012). La société inclusive, parlons-en! Toulouse: Erès) seems like an uphill battle.

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This chapter examines the origins and institutionalization of sport sociology in Germany and Switzerland and provides an overview of the current state of research. It shows how academic chairs and research committees were established and how the first textbooks, anthologies, and journals appeared from the 1970s onwards. The institutionalization process of German-speaking sport sociology proceeded parallel to the establishment of sport science. With regard to its theoretical and empirical basis, German-speaking sport sociology is rooted in theories and concepts of general sociology. Studies using a system theory perspective, conceptualizing sport as a societal sub-system and examining its linkage with and dependence on economy, media, or politics are particularly common in the German-speaking region. In addition, actor theoretic perspectives are very popular, and French sociologists such as Bourdieu and Foucault have had a marked influence on German-speaking sport sociology. A large number of sport sociology studies are concerned with the changes in leisure and elite sports. In this context, the emergence of new trends in risk sports as well as the fitness boom and its implications on body perception are of special interest. Further areas of research refer to sport participation and the impact of social inequality, particularly with respect to gender differences and social integration. Finally, organization research focusing on change at the level of sport associations and clubs has a long tradition. Major challenges for the future of German-speaking sport sociology include its internationalization and an enhanced international linkage in order to improve the visibility of research results.

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The history of Hungarian sociology of sport can be divided to two periods, which are different in terms of conditions but show similarities in many other ways. In the period between the mid-1960s and 1989, the intensive development of the discipline was hindered by the repression of sociology and the lack of interest in sport on the part of social scientists. However, the unique social functions of (elite) sport still created a demand for scientific inquiry. In the second period, from 1989 to the present day, the conditions of research freedom were established; yet, sport as an area for research failed to attract the attention of social scientists. In this respect, today’s scholars of sociology of sport face similar problems as the founders of the discipline, although the changing economic conditions in terms of research funding and institutionalization provide a more favorable environment for the scientific investigation of sport-related social issues. As a result, the number of sport sociological publications has steadily increased in the past decade and Hungarian scholars have the opportunity to participate in international conferences and research projects. This chapter reviews sociology of sport in Hungary, with a focus on historical heritage, institutionalization, the current situation, and barriers to development.

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This chapter offers insight into Italian sociology of sport. It first describes the fragmented history from the 1990s to the present of a discipline that has never developed as a truly mature field in the academic environment, and then outlines some main areas of research strengths and outcomes. Four strands can be highlighted: fandom and organized soccer supporters (Ultras); changes in sport through the forces of television, new media, sponsorship, and globalization; hybridization of sport, mass media, and politics with Berlusconi’s entrance into the Italian political scene and the advent of the era of “football politics”; and lastly, the body, bodywork, formal/informal sport activities, and gym culture with a microsociological perspective. However, despite their sociological relevance, these topics have had no regular, substantial development. They constitute separate fields of knowledge appearing in the sociological landscape in conjunction with social alarms, mainly related to soccer violence, or the emergence of new mass sport events or trends. It is difficult to predict what the future will hold. There is currently emerging attention to new urban sports and some sporadic in-depth ethnographic investigations of sport in micro arenas, such as soccer pitches, fitness gyms, and dance schools. Otherwise, Italian sociology of sport is folded into physical education science and is only considered as a field of inquiry for physical health and wellbeing.

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Sociology of sport does not exist as a (sub)discipline or course of study in the Netherlands. Scholars who call themselves sport sociologists engage in a variety of research and related publication activities. Many of these might not strictly fit under some understandings of the title “sociology” since they focus on sport management, policy implementation, and change. In this chapter, I describe how sociology of sport research tends to be defined and how that research is used to defend government spending on sport participation. This instrumental approach means the results of Dutch research using critical perspectives are often heard only internationally. I explain how the structure of Dutch academia, which limits the number of associate professors and professors, relies primarily on external funding for research and makes such funding difficult to obtain if it does not fit within a specified perspective, and limits who is able to engage in research and the type of research that is produced. I show how this structure in combination with the emphasis on an instrumental function of sport has largely shaped much of the research and has limited the use of a variety of theoretical frameworks and the development of a robust and coherent body of knowledge about the sociology of sport in the Netherlands.

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This chapter reviews the sociology of sport as a subdiscipline in the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The review is based on analyses of central documents, scholarly contributions, as well as interviews with some key scholars in the field. The review describes both similarities and differences across the three countries. The sociology of sport as a subdiscipline and research field is a relatively new area. Among the decisive factors that prompted the field to grow were the expansion of higher education and the institutionalization of sport studies as an academic field during the 1970s. Each country today has approximately 15–20 scholars who identify themselves as sport sociologists. None of the Scandinavian countries have special research programs for research funding in the social sciences of sport, and the main funding derives mostly from the research resources linked to the scholars’ professorships/scholarships and external funding. The research trajectories of the field are mostly concentrated around areas like youth sport, participation studies, sport politics, and team sports. Besides scholars involved in gender studies and body culture, most of the key contributors also belong to these areas. Scholars make use of multifaceted theoretical and methodological approaches. One of the main future challenges of the research field is to maintain and strengthen its critical traditions against the strong influence from neoliberal sport management discourses.

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The chapter begins by examining the origins of sociology of sport in Spain, which dates back to the transition to democracy, during which period sport became transformed progressively from an object of social concern into an object of sociological study. It then goes on to analyse the main factors of activation in particular processes of university teaching staff accreditation which acted as catalysts for the set of processes that fostered the emergence of sociology of sport in Spain. Lastly, the principal study fields are analysed by grouping them into three areas: sport and society, social attitudes to sport and sport facilities and organisations. In the conclusion, an assessment is made of contributions made to the speciality as well as of sociology of sport’s progressive internationalisation, a rare phenomenon prior to 2005 which is now regarded as a major indicator of the maturity of the discipline.

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Sociology of sport in the United Kingdom is as old as the subdiscipline itself but was uniquely shaped by the prominence of football hooliganism as a major social issue in the 1970s and 1980s. While it remains a somewhat niche activity, the field has been stimulated by the growing cultural centrality of sport in UK society. This quantitative and qualitative development has been recognized in recent governmental evaluations of research expertise. Current research reflects this expanded range of social stratification and social issues in sport both domestically and on a global level, while the legacy of hooligan research is evident in the continuing concentration on studies of association football. Historically, this empirical research has largely been underpinned by figurational, Marxist/neo-Marxist, or feminist sociological theories, but there is now a greater emphasis on theoretical synthesis and exploration. As a consequence of the expansion of the field, allied to its empirical and theoretical diversity, there is a burgeoning literature produced by UK sociologists of sport that spans entry-level textbooks, research monographs, and the editorship of a significant number of specialist journals. The chapter concludes by noting the future prospects of the sociology of sport in the United Kingdom in relation to teaching, research, and relations with other sport-related subdisciplines and the sociological mainstream.

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North America

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This chapter explores the emergence, growth, and current status of the sociology of sport in Canada. Such an endeavour includes acknowledging the work and efforts of Canadian scholars – whether Canadian by birth or naturalization or just as a result of their geographic location – who have contributed to the vibrant and robust academic discipline that is the sociology of sport in Canadian institutions coast-to-coast, and who have advanced the socio-cultural study of sport globally in substantial ways. This chapter does not provide an exhaustive description and analysis of the past and present states of the sociology of sport in Canada; in fact, it is important to note that an in-depth, critical and comprehensive analysis of our field in Canada is sorely lacking. Rather, this chapter aims to highlight the major historical drivers (both in terms of people and trends) of the field in Canada; provide a snapshot of the sociology of sport in Canada currently; and put forth some ideas as to future opportunities and challenges for the field in Canada.

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Although the first known sociological writings on sport in the English-speaking Caribbean (ESC) date from 1953, the sociology of sport is very much a nascent subdiscipline that occupies a very marginal and almost nonexistent position in the region’s educational, research, and development agenda. This is evident in the number of sport sociologists, courses of study, professional organizations, conferences/seminars, and publications on the subject. While this chapter examines the historical, social, cultural, institutional, and economic factors that have contributed to this situation, it also profiles the limited publications in the field, the theoretical and methodological characteristics, its authors, and their location, as well as some of the recent positive developments that make for change. However, while noting the positive signs of change, it is suggested that the future for the sociology of sport in the ESC is rather mixed for its growth will continue to be constrained if traditional thinking towards the study of sport and its funding persist or remain dominant.

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This chapter provides readers with a summary of sport sociology in the United States. It begins with a brief overview of sport in the United States before describing the development of the sociology of sport in the United States and some of the major contemporary patterns in sport research. They key movement in US sport sociology was the critical-cultural turn that took place during the 1980s and 1990s when critical theory and feminism became dominant approaches to research. Scholarship in the 21st century has largely developed upon that turn and is generally qualitative and cultural. Contemporary US sport sociology is a critical endeavor heavily influenced by cultural studies, post-structuralism, feminism, queer theory, critical race theory, post-colonial theory, and theories of globalization. Despite a fairly consistent approach to sport research in the United States, sport sociology remains contentious and in disunity. This chapter argues that the contention and disunity results from broader structural patterns that guide sport sociologists’ social actions.

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South America

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This chapter analyzes the development of the relationship between the social sciences and sport in Argentina – from its first steps, to the present, and to possible future issues. The description of Arbena (1999) from the last part of twentieth century about the situation of the social sciences and sport in Latin America in general and Argentina in particular could not be more precise:

Latin America has produced little scholarly analysis of sport and society, though information and insights are found in other types of writings, journalistic accounts such as club histories and popular biographies. What has been focused on soccer normally treats only the author’s own country, and is rarely available in English. Nowhere does a single author or academic group dominate. (Arbena, 2000, p. 548)

Latin America has produced little scholarly analysis of sport and society, though information and insights are found in other types of writings, journalistic accounts such as club histories and popular biographies. What has been focused on soccer normally treats only the author’s own country, and is rarely available in English. Nowhere does a single author or academic group dominate. (Arbena, 2000, p. 548)

We also make reference to how the anthropologist Eduardo Archetti breaks that mold described by Arbena and how he becomes the undisputed referent in the study of the social sciences and sport in Argentina, and how his immense contribution is recognized in the region. We analyze the present status of this topic, its major changes, the development that the area has undergone so far, and the issues that are being studied today. Moreover, we mention the importance of sociology of sport in the academic field and its formalization. Finally, this chapter also considers possible future trends in the sociology of sport in Argentina.

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In this chapter, I aim to present a review on the constitution of the sociology of sport as a subfield in Brazil. To do so, I start with the debate over its history, the current status of this academic area and the factors that led to its development. Additionally, I present the main organizations, funding institutions, and the events that support this field. I briefly identify the main postgraduate programs in the country that enable sociological research in sport, mapping their distribution geographically. Next, I present some introductory works of reference on the sociology of sport in Brazil, as well as discussing some authors that were and are key to the field. I highlight the main topics of interest in Brazilian sociology of sport as well as their methodological models and the main theoretical bases of analysis used by late and early career researchers. In conclusion, I evaluate the comprehension and the representation of sport in society and in the academy, pointing to some future perspectives of development and consolidation of the sociology of sport in Brazil.

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This chapter analyzes the evolution and impact of the sociology of sport in Chile. From a socio-historical perspective and considering the different sociological perspectives used to study national sport phenomena, the sociology of sport remains a relatively new field of study within general sociology. Chile’s recent hosting of international conferences, such as the Latin American Association of Sociology (ALAS) and the Latin American Association of Sociocultural Studies in Sports (ALESDE), has catalyzed the field by bringing together researchers and promoting academic collaboration. To date, most research in Chile has focused on soccer. However, changes in Chilean society demand that other social aspects of sport as a socio-cultural phenomenon be studied. In future years, it is expected that the sociology of sport will assume a level of importance equal to that of other fields of social research.

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Cover of Sociology of Sport: A Global Subdiscipline in Review
DOI
10.1108/S1476-285420179
Publication date
2016-11-10
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Sport
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78635-050-3
Book series ISSN
1476-2854