Call for Papers | “Outsiders, underdogs and bohemians in sport”, Special Issue of Sport in Society | Call ends August 15, 2023


Guest Editors
    • Bo Carlsson, Linnæus University
    • Kutte Jönsson, Malmö University
    • Isak Lidström, Linnæus University
Forever epitomizing the underdog? Michael David Edwards (born 5 December 1963), better known as Eddie the Eagle, is an English ski-jumper and Olympian who in 1988 became the first competitor since 1928 to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping, finishing last in the Normal Hill and Large Hill events. In 2016, he was portrayed in the biographical film Eddie the Eagle.

This special issue has a general ambition to present, compare and analyse the existence as well as the varieties and values of ‘outsiders’ and ‘underdogs’ in sports. Thus, in the history of sport we find athletes and teams as well as events and specific ‘sports’ that, in their actions or characters as ‘outsiders’ or ‘underdogs’, have for various reasons challenged the sports logics as well as the general – ‘hegemonic’ – normative structures, ideals and rationalities in sport regarding, e.g. performances, preconditions as well as lifestyles and approaches to e.g. training and media. Of course, these forms of ‘contest’ have also fascinated the sport consumers and attracted media coverage in various ways and directions, and thus, belong to the celebrations of sport, differences, and the virtue of the uncertainty of outcome.

Still, the increasing processes of professionalization, institutionalization, rationalization, and commodification of sports might reduce the spaces – and, thus, the concept(ion) of outsiders as well as underdogs. Yet, there are individual athletes, even in contemporary elite sports, that are conceived as outsiders, or even ‘bohemians’. But they seem to differ from the older myths of a more ‘idealistic and existential bohemian’ in the sense that their images – as well as self-images – appear to be rather constructed, branded and marketed, and consequently stands as a (post-modern) type of a twisted form of a produced and calculated bohemian/outsider. In this matter, this special issue will support reflections on the possible alteration of the conceptions of outsiders and bohemians.

In addition, articles in the issue could take a starting point in elite athletes who, for some reason, should have been ‘sorted out’ but who have not been disregarded or ruled out, and in fact have had successes in elite sport, notwithstanding cultural, physical, geographical and/or social difficulties and barriers, and in this respect could be considered as underdogs, and even as ‘outsiders’.

Evidently, an understanding of the outsider could also be grasped and analysed in relation to what is regarded as the normal, as ‘the established’. In this respect, Elias and Scotson had set a foundation by the book, ‘The Established and the Outsiders’. Besides, a Gramscian horizon would certainly work to handle the issue’s ambitions. In a similar manner, analyses founded in the works of Foucault would contribute beneficially to the subject. Needless to say, the gendered (re)constructions of the conceptions and the images of bohemians need to be confronted, described and analysed.

Hence, the comprehension of the outsider and/or the underdog could be grasped in relation to the visions and imaginations of bohemians or hermits as well as ‘David vs. Goliath’, or a, as athletes challenging sports’ general selection processes such as cultural prejudices, socio-economic conditions, geographical obstacles, physical limitations, or medical problems.

Thus, this special issue will deal with different perspectives on the concept(ion) of the outsider, and its relation to sport. The issue will support articles that have the ambition to:

      • comprehend the role and the need of ‘alternative stars’, beyond the normal and conventional, perhaps as ‘anti-heroes’ in contrast to e.g. media’s construction of sport stars.
      • challenging general talent identifications and selection processes, in light of ‘outsiders’ or ‘underdogs’.
      • analysis what are the special – and alternative – qualities of the elite athletes who have achieved success ‘against all odds’?
      • make comparative analysis of the contexts and sport’s characters due to modern and post-modern narratives surrounding the (role of the) outsider,
      • highlight power and gender in the conceptions of outsiders, underdogs and bohemians,
      • highlight the benefits of Weberian analytical ‘ideal types’,
      • use of history as a method to grasp issues in our contemporary society, and thus, put forward general diagnosis in light of individual cases and narratives from different epochs in the sport history.
      • thus, using actions and motives at the micro-level to grasp manners and processes on the macro-level.

Important dates

Call for abstracts (CfP): Deadline, August 15, 2023.
Acceptance of abstracts: September 15, 2023.
First drafts: October 31, 2024.
Final manuscripts: Mars 31, 2025.

Submission of abstracts

Send an abstract to Bo Carlsson, bo.u.carlsson@lnu.se, before August 15, 2023. Abstracts must be clearly written in English and be a maximum of 300 words excluding the title and authors.


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