Report from the International Society for the History of Physical Education and Sport (ISHPES) Congress, August 18–22, 2013

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Marit Nybelius
Malmö University & Dalarna University, Sweden
Christof Thöny
University of Innsbruck, Austria


Please click on the picture to access the pdf-book of program and abstracts from the ISHPEA 2013 congress.

Please click on the picture to access the pdf-book of program and abstracts from the ISHPEA 2013 congress.

Under the overall theme “Games and Sporting Events in History: Organization, Performances, Impacts”, the annual ISHPES congress took place in August 2013 at the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei. Local o-organizers were, besides the National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan Society of Physical Education and Sport History, The Taiwan Society of Sport Sociology, and Taiwan Body Culture Society College of Sports & Recreation.

The congress was perfectly organized and 130 scholars from 18 nations presented their research in interesting sessions and motivating keynote addresses. Each day the schedule offered keynote presentations and three parallel sessions. In addition, there was a poster session during one day. Traditional Taiwanese handicraft, arts and music could also be experienced during the conference. This report outlines the proceedings, keynote presentations and other central events.

The congress was opened by ISHPES President Prof. Annette Hofmann and the chairperson of the organization committee Prof. Mei-Chun Lin. The opening was followed by the first keynote speaker, Prof. Abe Ikuo (Japan), who reflected on “A Prolegomena on the Asiatic Perception and Understanding of ‘Sport’: A Study on Japanese Case before 1911”. He made a contribution to the discussion about the Japanese application for the 2020 Olympic Games (which, as we now know, will indeed take place in Tokyo City). The topic could be related to the panel discussion “Asian Sport meets Western Sports: Cross Cultural Changes” on the second day of the congress. The participating panellists came from both sides of the globe: Prof. Dong-Jhy Whang (National Taiwan Sport University), Prof. Keiko Ikeda (Yamaguchi University, Japan) and Prof. Gwang OK (Cheongju University, S. Korea) representing parts of Asia, while Prof. Gerald Gems (North Central College in Naperville, IL), Prof. Maureen Smith (California State University) and Prof. Alison Wrynn, (California State University, Long Beach) were representatives from the Western sport culture. The Chinese-American Scholar Ying Wushanley (Millersville University, PA) who is at home in the Asian as well as the American sports culture moderated the discussion quite skilfully.

The basic topic of the panel discussion was the Western imperialism of Asia in the 19th century, which affected the development of sport. One of the most debated questions in the discussion was if we could or should still talk about the East and the West, or if the definitions are no longer valid, according to the world order of today. Suggestions were made to change the focus and talk about the North and the South of the world. Alternatively, that distinction should not be made in terms of North and South or East and West, but that focus should be on more contemporary definitions, like glocalization.

The Routledge Keynote presentation speaker,  Prof. Malcolm McLean, University of Gloucestershire, focussed on the South and other parts of the world.  According to McLean there has been an increasing public awareness of the revival of calls of comprehensive boycotts. He spoke about sport boycotts around the world and focused on the previous apartheid system in South Africa and the U23 soccer tournament in Israel during the summer of 2013. McLean presented the possible impacts that campaigns like the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) call for the isolation of Israel and the campaigns against sporting contact with South Africa have on the existing historical understanding of cultural boycotts as a tactical and strategic campaign tool.

Eichberg’s lecture presented a critical approach to the cultural meanings of the terms “play” and “game” and the formation of “sports” in that context.

Alison Wrynn received the ISHPES Award 2013 for her contribution to sport history and ISHPES throughout her career. Her keynote lecture “Therapeutic Massage, Physical Education and Physical Therapy – Defining a Profession” gave an insight into her current research on the allied health fields relating to kinesiology. Physical Therapy was introduced in the USA as there was a need for injured soldiers to have rehabilitation after the First World War. There has been a lack of research about the implementation and use of massage within physical therapy. Therefore her central question focused on how the practice of massage was used, interacted with other therapies and how it was established within physical therapy in the first half of the twentieth century in the United States.

Another highlight of the 2013 ISPHES Congress was Henning Eichbergs keynote lecture “Play, Game and Sport. An Historical-Phenomenological Critique of Sport Idealism”. Eichberg is an internationally known German-Danish sociologist of history and cultural studies, presently Professor at the University of Southern Denmark and a leading Scandinavian sport studies scholar. His lecture presented a critical approach to the cultural meanings of the terms “play” and “game” and the formation of “sports” in that context. The terminological differentiation offered opportunities for further discussions, including the need to adopt more critical view on the idealism that is connected with the Olympic Games (not Olympic “Play”).

As an organization, ISHPES strongly supports Junior Scholars. There are special awards and activities for them at each congress. This year’s Gigliola Gori Junior Scholar Award was given to Chia-Ju Yen and To-Pin Wen (both National Taiwan University) and their topic “Historical discovery of the passage of Tou Hu from China to Japan and South Korea”. Feng Ran Lee received the Routledge Book Prize for the best PhD presentation for her topic “An overview of Taiwan Baseball Stamps in the 1970s”.

Prof. Annette Hofmann and Prof. Gertrud Pfister held a session in which they gave advice to Junior Scholars about publications and networking. Here, Pfister also presented her annual International Summer School for PhD students at Copenhagen University.

Besides these academic events, at every ISHPES congress there is a Junior Scholar Social Night, where junior scholars and some of the seniors meet. It was a great possibility to network since many participating scholars came together in a relaxing and positive atmosphere.

To summarize: The congress was extremely well organized and for Non-Asians it was a great opportunity to learn a bit more about the Taiwanese culture and get to know colleagues from that side of the globe. The only problem that occurred during the congress was a typhoon that resulted in a one day break due to the closing of all official buildings in Taipei. Luckily no papers had to be cancelled, “only” a sightseeing trip. Being used to these kinds of environmental challenges, the organisers handled the situation with ease and relocated one keynote speaker as well as the Gala-Dinner. The Gala dinner included many different, local, traditional Chinese food specialities, music and costumes, which was very much appreciated by the participants of the congress.

During the congress the organizers of the upcoming congresses were introduced. The next ISHPES congress will be held in September 2014 in Doha, Qatar by the Quarter Olympic & Sport Museum, followed by Split, Croatia in 2015.

Copyright © Marit Nybelius & Christof Thöny 2013

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