ISSA 2017 World Congress of Sociology of Sport


The International Sociology of Sport Association (ISSA) hosted this year’s World Congress of Sociology of Sport at the National Taiwan Sport University in Taoyuan, Taiwan. The conference took place from May 30th to June 2nd. Together with ISSA, the local organizing committee hosted a truly spectacular academic event in Tayouan, Taiwan. The theme for this year’s congress was “Reimagining Democracies and Sport”.  In this blog post, I would like to share some of my personal experiences attending this international conference.


Tuesday – May 30th

For the first day of the conference the local organizers had arranged for a complimentary tour to showcase the beauty of Taiwan by experiencing The Dragon Boat Festival. The Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Festival) is a traditional holiday that commemorates the life and death of the famous Chinese scholar Qu Yuan. The festival occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese lunar calendar, it is said the sun is right in the middle height this day. It falls on May 30, 2017. Participating in this tour, the international delegates were able to experience the activity and food of Dragon Boat Festival by  watching dragon boat races at Longtan Pond, Taoyuan, which draws in hundreds and thousands of people every year.

Two competing dragon boat teams racing to the finish line (Dragon Boat Festival)


Local balloon salesman at the Dragon Boat Festival.


After the cultural experiences of the Dragon Boat Festival it was time to register for this year’s congress. As an ’Early Bird’  I also got these amazing cool ISSA 2017 Conference shoes:

Official ISSA 2017 Conference shoes


After registration (and trying on my new sneakers) tuesday night ended with a Welcome Reception. The Welcome Reception was held on campus at a Multipurpose Gymnasium. An evening filled with great local food and entertainment.


The venue of the welcome reception


ISSA President Christine Dallaire welcoming delegates to the 2017 World Congress of Sociology of Sport.


Wednesday – May 31st

In the morning I attended the session on ’Sport and Gender’, chaired by Professor (and long-time ISSA member) Mari Kristin Sisjord. Diego M. Gutierrez from Brazil opened this session with his presentation on ”Gender, masculinization and socialization within the Brazilian woman’s elite rugby players”. Gutierrez presented an interview study on Brazilian women’s rugby. Second, Ying Chiang from Chihlee University of Technology (Taiwan) presented her research on gender discourses and their implications for women’s sport participation in Taiwan. Lastly in this session, ISSA President Christine Dallaire (School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Canada) presented her research with Kamiel Ried on women’s soccer referees in Canada.

After the morning session, this year’s keynote speaker, Christopher Gaffney, gave a very interesting and thought-provoking lecture on the theme of the congress ’Reimagining Democracy and Sport’. Gaffney’s lecture is summarized in this short abstract:

Debates over sport and democratic process have again taken centre stage as global and national political shifts have called into question the texture and tenure of representational government. While populist and nativist politics have returned to fashion in the West, the opaque and aloof practices of international sports organisations have exposed the non-democratic conditions under which sport has always been governed. As the meanings of sport change in the 21st century, scholars and participants are questioning and challenging the ways in which sporting practice informs and influences the meanings and mutations of democracy. Athletes, fans, and citizens are increasingly using sport as a platform to express their desire for transparency, good governance, and representation. In this keynote address, I will speak to the ways in which sport reflects and refracts larger political trends and will point towards a progressive geography of sporting practice.

ISSA 2017 Keynote speaker: Christopher Gaffney


Delegates listening to Christopher Gaffney on ’Reimagining Democracies and Sport’


Wednesday ended with the ISSA Annual General meeting. Here, this year’s Graduate Paper Award was given to the best papers written by Graduate studentes. The winner, Engela Van Der Klashorst (University of Pretoria – South Africa) was awarded first place for her paper ’Employment through sport: ignoring the socio-economic rights of youth leaders working in sport for development initiatives on grass root level in South Africa’. Van Der Klashorst’s paper can be summarized in this abstract:

Sport has a powerful effect on society. It has not only been forwarded as a basic human right, but is powerful as tool in the advocacy of other human rights. Social inclusion through sport initiatives and gender equality interventions abound in the developing world. Change agents working in the field of sport for development applaud the success of interventions in marginalised and impoverished communities as sport is an effective tool that contributes to the social inclusion of the marginalised, and the betterment of the poor. Unemployed youth are recruited as youth leaders and can work towards a better future as result of their involvement in sport interventions. This research note highlights the tension between sport for development initiatives in South Africa that advocate human rights and the failure of the current system to fulfil the socio-economic rights of youth leaders. This study explores the reality of the employed youth leader through the lens of ‘The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (ICESCR). A qualitative, ethnographic approach was used to explore the question: ‘Are the socio-economic human rights of youth leaders employed to defend the human rights of their communities protected?’. Results indicated that the socio-economic rights of youth leaders are not protected. Youth leaders perceive their work as important, but that they don’t believe that the remuneration that they receive can provide a decent living for them and their families; and, that they don’t believe that they have an equal opportunity to be promoted to a higher level within the organisations that they work for. Recommendations on how to address the socio-economic human rights of youth leaders are provided.

This year I also entered the GPA contest and my paper ’I don’t think they realise how good we are’: Innovation, inclusion and exclusion in women’s Olympic boxing” was awarded an Honorable Mention. My paper is now published in ISSA’s own journal, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, and can be read here.

Engela Van Der Klashorst recieving the ISSA GPA award


Anne Tjønndal recieving the ISSA GPA Award


Thursday – June 1st

Local master students, graduate students and researchers presented their academic work in a poster session, in which international delegates could walk around, read and ask questions about their research projects. A great way to network with fellow sport sociologists in Taiwan.


ISSA 2017 Poster session

On thursday I also attended a session on ’Race and Ethnicity’, chaired by Brent McDonald. Ramon Spaaij (Victoria University) opened the session with a presentation of his research on community sports events as diasporic spaces. Following his presentation, Bente Ovedie Skogvang (Inland University of Applied Sciences, Norway) held a presentation on Poly cultural capital among indigenous people from Taiwan and Norway at the Riddu festival. Lastly in this session Chiu Chi-Shan (National Taiwan Sport University) presented a research project on ethnic identity among players of taiwan national indigenous games.

Ramon Spaaij presenting his research at ISSA 2017


Friday – June 2nd

The last day of the conference and finally my turn to present my paper on innovation, inclusion and exclusion in women’s olympic boxing. My presentation was in the morning, in a session titled ’Sport, Social Inclusion and Exclusion’ chaired by Bente Oveide Skogvang. After my presentation John Kelly (University of Edinburgh) presented a new theoretical framework  for understanding linguistic expression in the wider socio-political contexts of free speech and the state. In his study he applied this framwork to Scottish football, ‘sectarianism’ (ethno-religious identities) and the use of the epithets ”Hun” and ”Fenian” which have been used in relation to the two Glasgow clubs Rangers and Celtic.

This session ended with Fiona Dowling’s (Department of Cultural and Social Studies, Norwegian School of Sports Sciences) research project on Norwegian sport club’s contribution to social inclusion. Her paper explores the different stakeholders’ experiences of local inclusion iniatives in sport clubs, and asks whose terms these integration projects through sport is being defined. Dowling’s paper builds on a growing critique of policy claims concerning sports participation and integration. Namely, a critique of theoretical concepts such as social capital and notions of ’belonging’, to an overly romantic belief in the ’goodness’ of sport that oversees the institution’s role in the reproduction of sexism, racism, social exclusion, homophobia and so on.

Fiona Dowling presenting her research at ISSA 2017


After the academic program on Friday, this year’s ISSA 2017 World Congress for the Sociology of Sport ended with a magnificent galla dinner at the Fullon A8 Hotel. With great food and great company, it was a perfect ending to the congress. In particular, the entertainment, consisting of local indigenous dancers, was outstanding.


Galla Dinner – Taiwanese Dancers

Galla Dinner – Taiwanese Dancers and international delegates


I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Local Organizing Committee  for hosting a spectacular World Congress for the Sociology of Sport. I hope to see many of you next year, in Lausanne, Switzerland.


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