Call for Papers | Feminisms and Sports Studies | Kings College London, February 2022. Call ends September 30, 2021

Norwegian women’s beach handball team fined for not playing in bikinis. While male players are allowed to play in tank tops and shorts, women are required to wear bikini bottoms “with a close fit and cut on an upward angle.”

In recent years, feminist (#meetoo; #NiUnaMenos), anti-racist (Black Lives Matter; Rhodes Must Fall) and ecologist (Extinction Rebellion; Fridays for Future) political movements have become increasingly visible in academia, including in Sports Studies (McCullough & Kellison, 2017; Schultz, 2019; TePoel & Nauright, 2021). While this testifies to the renewed conversations taking place within universities and academia, resistance to this social justice turn is also in evidence. Feminist claims and analyses are still often disparaged as overly activism-led (McRobbie, 2009). In addition, feminist studies are sometimes subjected to “gender washing” through depoliticised analyses that use gender equity fallaciously in the aim of receiving funds or visibility (Fox-Kirk et al., 2020; Bilge, 2020). At this crossroads, we consider it essential to think about how, why, for what and for whom we refer to feminist scholarship in Sports Studies. What does it mean to produce feminist knowledge and ways of knowing, in a research area in which feminist concerns and approaches remain marginal (Park and Vertinsky, 2011; Pfister, 2017; Mansfield et al., 2018)? Thus, this conference aims at thinking about the political dimensions of the feminist theories and the ways we use them (or not) in Sport Studies.

Feminist scholarship in Sport Studies is obviously plural, being more “a multifaceted and multisited project than a bounded field” (Ferguson, in Disch and Hawkesworth, 2016: 2). We therefore define this conference as being “informed by the ideas and theories of feminism and not just focus on women” (Purvis, 1992: 274). Furthermore, we understand feminist scholarship both as a political standpoint (Kelly & Gurr, 2019) and as a way to “denaturalise that which passes for differences; challenge the aspiration to produce universal and impartial knowledge; engage the complexity of power relation through intersectional analysis” (Disch and Hawkesworth, 2016: 4).

This conference aims to critically investigate our own research field, i.e. Sports Studies. Within sports and physical activities, bodies are exposed, ranked, and naturalised, in the name of a collective understanding of sporting performance, all the while relying on and reproducing sexist, racist, heteronormative, ableist and classist bias (Collins and Bilge, 2016). Yet research in Sports Studies sometimes avoids engaging with these intersecting biases, or even internalises them (Williams 2019). Hence, the primary focus will be to understand how expanding our research focuses and literature (Fraser 1990), allows for innovative research avenues. On the one hand, we aim to question how original conversations between (and against) theories help reinvent the definition and contours of  sport  and  physical  activity,  by  following  the  diversity  of  practices, practitioners, and institutions, as well as the historical and geographical contexts. On the other hand, driving this conference is the goal of collectively thinking about the ways in which feminist approaches can innovatively reveal how the constituent norms and inequalities of sport are produced, maintained or destabilised, either at the material, corporeal level (Allen-Collinson, 2011), through practices of sports and physical activity or through Sports Studies itself.

Practical Organisation

As we strive for this conference to offer an interdisciplinary dialogue between feminist history of sports and feminist sociology of sport, as well as other fields, such as political science or philosophy of science, we invite contributors to send proposals from these various fields. Interested participants are invited to send proposals outlining their particular approach to feminist theories, methodologies and politics and the empirical basis of their proposed contribution. 500-word abstracts should be sent to feminists.sports@protonmail.com by 30 September 2021.

The conference will be held in February 2022, at King’s College London. Participants will be expected to send more detailed abstracts for their presentation a month before the conference.

The conference is convened by Dr. Solène Froidevaux (Swiss National Science Foundation, University of Lausanne) and Dr. Claire Nicolas (Swiss National Science Foundation, King’s College London). Contact: feminists.sports@protonmail.com

Bibliography

Allen-Collinson, Jacquelyn. “Feminist phenomenology and the woman in the running body”, Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, 5(3): 287-302. 2011.
Bilge, Sirma. “The fungibility of intersectionality: an Afropessimist reading”, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 43(13): 2298-2326. 2020.
Collins, Patricia Hill and Sirma Bilge. Intersectionality. Cambridge: Polity Press. 2016
Disch, Lisa and Mary Hawkesworth (ed). The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2016.
Fox-Kirk, Wendy, Rita A. Gardiner, Hayley Finn and Jennifer Chisholm. “Genderwashing: the myth of equality”, Human Resource Development International, 23(5): 586-597. 2020.
Fraser, Nancy. “The Uses and Abuses of French Discourse Theories for Feminist Politics”, Boundary 2, 17(2): 82- 101.
Kelly, Maura and Barbara Gurr (ed). Feminist Research in Practice. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. 2019.
Margadant, Jo Burr. The New Biography: Performing Femininity in Nineteenth-Century France. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2000. Mansfield, Louise, Jayne Caudwell, Belinda Wheaton and Beccy Watson (ed). The Palgrave Handbook of Feminism and Sport, Leisure and Physical Education. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 2018.
McCullough, Brian P., and Timothy B. Kellison (ed). Routledge Handbook of Sport and the Environment. London: Routledge. 2017.
McRobbie, Angela. The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change. London et al: Sage. 2009.
Park, Roberta J., and Patricia Vertinsky. Women, Sport, Society: Further Reflections, Reaffirming Mary Wollstonecraft. Abingdon: Routledge. 2011.
Pfister, Gertrud. “Approaching Sport from Historical and Sociological Perspectives: The Life and Work of a Feminist Scholar”. In Kevin Young (ed). Reflections on Sociology of Sport Ten Questions, Ten Scholars, Ten Perspectives. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited: 153-169. 2017.
Purvis, June. “Using Primary Sources When Researching Women’s History from a Feminist Perspective”. Women’s History Review 1(2). 273-306. 1992.
Schultz, Jaime. “More than Fun and Games: Cell 16, Female Liberation, and Physical Competence, or Why Sport Matters”. The International Journal of the History of Sport 36(17-18): 1552-1573. 2019.
Tepoel, Dain and John Nauright (ed). SportsWorld VI: Black Lives Matter in the Sports World. Sport in Society 25(5). 2021.
Williams Jean, “Upfront and onside: women, football, history and heritage special edition. Introduction: women’s football and the #MeToo movement”, Sport in History, 39(2): 121-129, 2019.

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