If Michael Burawoy is accurate when he suggests that civil society is currently under threat from the pervasive interests of the market and the state, there is perhaps no other domain of social life in which this can be so clearly evidenced than that of sport. In spite of numerous efforts to consolidate access to sport and physical activity as a human right, sport policies and programs tend to be among the very first to undergo cuts at times of fiscal austerity. All over the Americas – and most notably in North America – the rise of neoliberal agendas has triggered an unparalleled commodification of the pathways and spaces to engage in sport and physical activity, while at the same time significantly eroding the capacity of states to deliver opportunities for sport participation. It thus comes as no surprise that, despite some fundamental disagreements, most of the different branches of critical scholarship within North American sociology of sport have found common ground in the charge against neoliberalism. These concerns have been articulated in both theoretical and practical terms – and it is the latter that is of special interest here.
Yet, if there is to be a robust public sociology of sport, it needs to be anchored in the assumption that the struggles of civil society may take different shapes in response to the distinct oppressing conditions encountered in each social landscape. Whereas the threat of privatization remains widespread throughout most capitalist societies, in some countries of the global south – such as Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, and Bolivia – sport participation policies have experienced an unprecedented allocation of resources in recent years. It is still unclear, however, whether these policies represent an effective challenge to the hegemonic values pervading mainstream sports monoculture – or, on the contrary, help to reproduce them.
As part of the 20th anniversary celebrations for the Movimento Journal and inspired by the first ten years of Burawoy’s landmark call for a public sociology, this special issue seeks to explore how scholars of sport situated all over the world – and especially in the Americas – have navigated some of the challenges presented above, engaged with their respective “publics,” and taken a stand on behalf of civil society. Submissions are encouraged on, but not limited to, the following themes:
- The role of sociologists of sport as public intellectuals, their engagement with traditional “publics,” and the possibilities of intervention in the mainstream media;
- The emergence of new media and the opportunities they provide for the establishment of new “publics;”
- The organic engagement of sociologists of sport with representatives of civil society, such as labour unions, non-governmental organizations, sport for development programmes, etc.;
- The challenges and opportunities surrounding open-access knowledge, the proliferation of open-access journals, and the difficulties embedded in the process of knowledge translation;
- The impacts of expenditure cuts on opportunities for sport participation and sport policies within neoliberal settings;
- The increasing privatization, corporatization and commercialization of physical culture, and the emergence of counter-hegemonic alternatives;
- The evaluation and critique of sport policies and programmes in developing countries.
Submissions are accepted in Portuguese, English, and Spanish. Papers must have 4,000–6,000 words (inclusive of endnotes and reference list) and should follow the formatting guidelines available at http://www.seer.ufrgs.br/index.php/Movimento/about/submissions. The deadline for submissions is May 31, 2014. Original manuscripts should be submitted online at http://www.seer.ufrgs.br/index.php/Movimento/index. Please direct any inquiries to Guilherme Nothen at firstname.lastname@example.org.