RN Reports – RN28 Society and Sports

Issue 43: Sociology Beyond Europe Mon 15 Jul 2019 0

Honorata Jakubowska, RN28 Coordinator 2017-2019
Alessandro Porrovecchio, RN28 Co-coordinator 2017-2019

Sport plays a central role in contemporary societies and thus continues to fire the sociological imagination. It has a long history of uniting people, of overcoming differences, of teaching norms and values while participating in teams and in clubs, of inspiring young people to set goals and follow their dreams, and of stimulating older people to remain physically active. At the same time, sport is said to divide, to celebrate differences, to exclude those that are less fit or less successful in physical performance, to elicit aggression and corruption, to individualise and commercialise, and moves away from its origins in volunteering and sport-clubs.

These key issues are central to RN28 Society and Sports. What role does sport play in contemporary societies? How has that role developed over the past decades? In these turbulent times, can sport act as a binding and liberating force, or is that too much to ask of sports? How easily can sports be incorporated into the global health agenda, tackling the obesity epidemic or facing the diffusion of chronic diseases? Will ‘sport for all’ ever be more than a dream or an inspiring goal? Or does sport continue to exclude as much as it includes? Can sport-events make a difference in this? And if not, what policies can – and how likely is it that such policies will be developed?

Starting from these ideas, the Research Network Society and Sports was initially proposed at the 1999 ESA conference in Amsterdam. Two years later, in Helsinki, the RN was officially constituted; coordinated by Ørnulf Seippel, it held its first business meeting and organised the first ESA conference sessions dedicated to the sociology of sport. In 2009, after a period of inactivity, a new group of sports sociologists undertook the initiative to revamp the network. The purpose was accepted by the ESA Executive Committee in November 2009 and the RN was coordinated by Davide Sterchele. The revamping of the network was realised by organising 13 sessions with 39 presentations at the 10th ESA conference in Geneva.

Since 2009, the network has been growing, not as much in numbers but in terms of consistent presence at conferences, establishing cooperation with other Research Networks and establishing procedures for good governance. In 2013, Nicolas Delorme was elected the RN’s coordinator and during the next ESA conference in 2015, he was replaced by Koen Breedveld, past co-coordinator. Following the 2017 ESA Conference in Athens, Honorata Jakubowska became the new coordinator of the RN. She is assisted by Alessandro Porrovecchio, RN Co-coordinator. RN28’s current Board members are Oli Williams (PhD/ECR representative), Lucie Forté, Enrico Michelini, Florin Faje, Renan Petersen-Wagner and Nico Bortoletto. At present, ESA RN28 counts 30+ individual members from 14 countries (United Kingdom, Turkey, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Czech Republic, Romania, France, Poland, Sri Lanka, United States, Germany, Denmark, Hungary).

Since its establishment, ESA RN28 and its members have actively participated in ESA conferences in Geneva (2011), Turin (2013), Prague (2015) and Athens (2017), organising its own and joint sessions. The number of their participants as well as the number of joint sessions have grown progressively during time: since several years, our RN cooperates regularly with RN20 (Qualitative Methods) and RN21 (Quantitative Methods), developing fruitful joint sessions on the most important methodological challenges characterising social research on sport, as well as with – among others – RN33 (Women’s and Gender studies), RN16 (Sociology of Health and Illness) and RN23 (Sexuality). As for the other ESA conference-related scientific events, during the last conference in Athens, the RN28 keynote session was especially successful, and organised for the first time by RN28. Dominic Malcolm delivered the keynote and Dino Numerato and Oli Williams acted as co-referents.

Every two years, ESA RN28 organises its mid-term conferences together with the European Association for the Sociology of Sport (EASS). This cooperation was encouraged among others by Davide Sterchele and begun on the occasion of the EASS conference that took place in Bern (Switzerland), with the organisation of a thematic symposium on “Body gender and ethnicity”. The mid-term conferences then took place in Utrecht (2014), Copenhagen (2016) and Bordeaux (2018). All these scientific events have created the opportunity to meet colleagues from ESA RN28 and expand the scientific network through the interaction with colleagues from other sport-related networks.

In November 2017, the first issue of the RN’s newsletter was sent to its members. It presents a list of the members’ publications, the ongoing scientific projects with participation of the RN’s members and other current news. Through the mailing list, we also share CFPs for conferences and publications related to different areas of the sociology of sport. ESA RN28 also has its own Twitter account.

RN28’s board members, e.g. Oli Williams, Enrico Michelini, Renan Petersen-Wagner, publish in the most important journals for our subdiscipline, such as International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, European Journal for Sport and Society, Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health and Sport, Education and Society. In 2017, Honorata Jakubowska, ESA RN28 coordinator, published the book Skill Transmission, Sport and Tacit Knowledge. A Sociological Perspective (Routledge, Abington) and in the same year, Alessandro Porrovecchio, co-coordinator, edited the book Sport, sex and gender: representations and narratives/ Sport, sexe et genre: représentations et narrations (L’Harmattan, Paris). Moreover, in summer 2018, Honorata Jakubowska edited the special issue of the journal Society Register on “Sport as a Means of Social Inclusion and Exclusion”, which hosted a significant number of articles written by RN28’s members. A significant number of RN28’s members also participate in different national and international research projects related to sport.  

In 2019, during the 14th ESA Conference in Manchester, UK, our Research Network will celebrate its 10th birthday, a special turning point in our scientific pathway. We are sure this is just a little step for a dynamic little network composed of motivated scholars giving a great contribution to the development of this important subarea of sociology.

RN28 on the ESA website.