Do we need another collection of sociology of sport articles? Our reviewer thinks so.

Richard Giulianotti
Loughborough University

Lawrence A. Wenner (ed.)
The Oxford Handbook of Sport and Society
1,161 pages, hardcover
Oxford: Oxford University Press 2023 (Oxford Handbooks)
ISBN 978-0-19-751901-1

This compilation is a welcome addition to a long and growing list of such handbooks to focus on sport and society. The editor – Larry Wenner (PhD, Iowa, 1977) – is an American sport and media/communication specialist whose impressive resume includes acting as the founding editor of Communication & Sport, as well as editing Journal of Sport and Social Issues and International Review for the Sociology of Sport.

One initial question that many academics and other interested readers might have is: do we need another handbook, given what we have already? In his foreword, Jay Coakley mentions six previous handbooks, four of which were published from 2015 onwards (full disclosure: this includes one handbook that I edited, and to which Wenner contributed a fine chapter). To that inventory, we might add several other key handbook-style compendia (e.g., Andrews and Carrington’s Companion to Sport); and, a huge number of handbooks on substantive sport topics (e.g. sport, gender and sexuality; sport, race, ethnicity and identity; global sport; sport for development and peace) that have been published in recent years.

The main distinguishing aspects of Wenner’s handbook are twofold. First, as the latest such handbook we can expect this to be the market-leader until the next such volume comes along. Second, it is among the very largest of handbooks, at 57 chapters, rather than the 40-ish that tends to be favoured by publishers like Routledge. While the title of ‘sport and society’ might be taken to imply a multidisciplinary approach, the Handbook is very much anchored in the Anglophone sociology of sport with some occasional and valuable inputs from other disciplines such as economics, education, law, philosophy, and policy/politics. With a standard handbook length, the chapters are titled and mostly written in conventional ways that are mainly intended to provide undergraduate students with introductory understandings of specific topics and issues. As with other handbooks and similar collections on sport, there is a high standard of writing on display here. Most authors are well experienced in writing handbook chapters, covering key themes and debates in their respective fields, and in ways that also enable their subject expertise to flow.

There is no set of chapters on theories or paradigms in sport studies, although in such a large volume space might have been allocated to consider leading and emerging approaches.

The chapters are organized into six main parts. Part 1 is themed around ‘Society and Values’, and hosts a variety of broad chapters on sport in respect of, for example, values and character (Sigmund Loland), policy and politics (Mike Sam), and militarism and signification (Michael Butterworth). While good to see a chapter on sport diplomacy (Stuart Murray), it does seem a somewhat awkward fit in this section. Despite its unduly narrow title, Part II (‘Enterprise and Capital’) covers a wide range of important themes including globalization/glocalization (Adam Beissel and David Andrews), cities/communities (Daniel Mason), the environment (Toby Miller), and tourism (Heather Gibson and Sheranne Fairley) in sport contexts. Part III (‘Participation and Cultures’) gets us more into specific substantive issues regarding the participatory aspects (and their consequences) of sport, such as health and wellbeing (Parissa Safai), drugs and doping (Paul Dimeo and April Henning), coaching and performance (Jim Denison and Zoe Avner), and social movements and athlete activism (Doug Hartmann). Part IV (‘Lifespan and Careers’) comprises eight papers on topics such as sport and youth, and elite development (Andy Smith), education and opportunity (Richard Bailey and Iva Glibo), and athletic careers and retirement (Martin Roderick and Lauren Kamperman). Arguably, this Part might be the most queried as a standalone section, given other sets of sociological themes and issues (including some that might have been allocated chapters – see below) that could have formed an alternative section. Part V gets us onto the orthodox sociological terrain of social divisions, to cover ‘Inclusion and Exclusion’ in sport. Chapters here include coverage of sport and social inclusion and development (Emma Sherry and Katherine Raw), race and ethnicity (Daryl Adair), disability and inclusion (Iain Brittain and Matej Christiaens); the Part concludes with three papers on gender and sexual identity. Finally, Part VI features nine chapters on ‘Spectator Engagement and Media’. Reflecting the editor’s area of expertise, the last five of these chapters are focused fully on media issues, such as journalism and social reproduction (David Rowe and Raymond Boyle), film and the cultural imaginary (Sean Crosson), and digital and social media (Jimmy Sanderson) in sport.

(Shutterstock/Roxane 134)

Even with space for almost 60 chapter, it’s a tricky task for an editor to decide on what topics to list. Some readers may still note that – with five chapters allocated to media topics, and other chapters designated to topics such as sport and alcohol – some further, major topics might have been included. Perhaps most notably, social class does not receive a named chapter in the ‘Social Inclusion and Exclusion’ part. Also absent as a chapter is ‘Sport for Development and Peace’ (sometimes truncated to ‘Sport for Development’), which has mushroomed into one of the largest, transnational, multidisciplinary fields of inquiry in sport studies over the past two decades. There is no set of chapters on theories or paradigms in sport studies, although in such a large volume space might have been allocated to consider leading and emerging approaches. Consequently, to pick one example, ‘Physical Cultural Studies’ (PCS) does not have its own chapter, although is sufficiently important to be discussed over more than a page in the editorial introduction. While there is a chapter on the broad area of ‘sport, race, and ethnicity’, the handbook may have benefited from a standalone named chapter, potentially by scholar(s) with minority background(s), on sport and postcolonialism/decolonization. While it receives some consideration in various chapters, a standalone chapter on Sport and Covid-19 might also have been a possibility. All of that said, readers (especially course leaders and students) have plenty of other handbooks and wider compendia to draw on, to access chapters on these topics.

One final point concerns the range of authors (and, potentially, the chapter topics) that are included in this volume. The vast majority are based and/or have built their careers in the Anglophone world, in North America, the UK and Ireland, and/or Australasia. Chapter authors include some of the best-known and heavily-cited academics in sport studies, where English-language outputs do predominate. This may also fit with publishers’ marketing priorities, where presumably North America provides the core market for these handbooks. On the other hand, readers of may note that the handbook could still have benefited from the inclusion of at least a few more scholars who have been schooled and who work in most other parts of the world, such as mainland Europe, Asia, Africa, or Latin America. This might have enhanced the diversity of academic voices, issues, and approaches to be given expression and consideration here, and would also have reflected globalizing trends in academe and beyond.

Copyright © Richard Giulianotti 2023

Table of Content


      1. Sport, Society, and Scholarly Inquiry
        Lawrence A. Wenner

Part I Society and Values

      1. Sport, Values, and Character
        Sigmund Loland
      2. Sport, Ideology, and Power
        Ben Carrington
      3. Sport, Policy, and Politics
        Michael P. Sam
      4. Sport, Nationalism, and National Identities
        Alan Bairner and Peizi Han
      5. Sport, Diplomacy, and Rapprochement
        Stuart Murray
      6. Sport, Militarism, and Signification
        Michael L. Butterworth
      7. Sport, Law, and Ethics
        Adam Epstein
      8. Sport, Religion, and Beliefs
        Andrew Parker and Nick J. Watson

Part II Enterprise and Capital

      1. Sport, Globalization, and Glocalization
        Adam Beissel and David L. Andrews
      2. Sport, Spectacle, and Mega-Events
        John Horne
      3. Sport, Olympic Ideals, and Realities
        Alan Tomlinson
      4. Sport, Corruption, and Fraud
        Lisa A. Kihl and Catherine Ordway
      5. Sport, Cities, and Communities
        Daniel S. Mason
      6. Sport, the Environment, and Geopolitics
        Toby Miller
      7. Sport, Leadership, and Social Responsibility
        Emily S. Sparvero and Laurence Chalip
      8. Sport, Economics, and Finance
        Bill Gerrard
      9. Sport, Marketing, and Consumer Culture
        Bettina Cornwell
      10. Sport, Tourism, and Social Impacts
        Heather J. Gibson and Sheranne Fairley

Part III Participation and Cultures

      1. Sport, Health, and Well-Being
        Parissa Safai
      2. Sport, Aggressive Play, and Violence
        Kevin Young
      3. Sport, Injury, and Medical Intervention
        Dominic Malcolm and Emma Pullen
      4. Sport, Science, and Technology
        Mary G. McDonald and Jennifer J. Sterling
      5. Sport, Drugs, and Doping
        Paul Dimeo and April Henning
      6. Sport, Alcohol, and Ritual
        Catherine Palmer
      7. Sport, Coaching, and Performance
        Jim Denison and Zoë Avner
      8. Sport, Emotion, and Engagement
        Paul A. Potrac et al.
      9. Sport, Child Maltreatment, and Sexual Violence
        Michael J. Hartill
      10. Sport, Scandal, and Social Morality
        David Rowe and Catherine Palmer
      11. Sport, Social Movements, and Athlete Activism
        Douglas Hartmann
      12. Sport, Animals, and Humans
        Michael Atkinson and Kass Gibson

Part IV Lifespan and Careers

      1. Sport, Children, and Socialization
        Ken Green et al.
      2. Sport, Youth, and Elite Development
        Andy Smith
      3. Sport, Education, and Opportunity
        Richard Bailey and Iva Glibo
      4. Sport, Social Mobility, and Elite Athletes
        Ramón Spaaij and Suzanne Ryder
      5. Sport, Labor, and Migration
        Győző Molnár
      6. Sport, Athletic Careers, and Retirement
        Martin Roderick and Lauren M. Kamperman
      7. Sport, Aging, and Adaptation
        Elizabeth C. J. Pike et al.
      8. Sport, Lifestyle, and Alternate Pathways
        Holly Thorpe and Guillaume Dumont

Part V Inclusion and Exclusion

      1. Sport, Social Inclusion, and Development
        Emma Sherry and Katherine Raw
      2. Sport, Social Exclusion, and Discrimination
        Ruth Jeanes and Ryan Lucas
      3. Sport, Race, and Ethnicity
        Daryl Adair
      4. Sport, Indigeneity, and Native Identities
        Tara Keegan and Jennifer Guiliano
      5. Sport, Bodily Ideals, and Obesity
        Pirkko Markula
      6. Sport, Disability, and Inclusion
        Ian Brittain and Matej Chrisiaens
      7. Sport, Masculinities, and Heteronormativity
        Rory Magrath and Eric Anderson
      8. Sport, Femininities, and Heteronormativity
        Cheryl Cooky
      9. Sport, Transgender Athletes, and Nonbinary Experience

Part VI Spectator Engagement and Media

      1. Sport, Heroes, and Celebrities
        Barry Smart
      2. Sport, Spectatorship, and Fandom
        Kevin Dixon
      3. Sport, Fan Violence, and Hooliganism
        John Williams
      4. Sport, Gambling, and Match-Fixing
        Minhyeok Tak
      5. Sport, Journalism, and Social Reproduction
        David Rowe and Raymond Boyle
      6. Sport, Television, and Structuration
        Andrew C. Billings and Nicholas R. Buzzelli
      7. Sport, Film, and the Cultural Imaginary
        Seán Crosson
      8. Sport, Advertising, and Promotional Culture
        Steven J. Jackson
      9. Sport, Digital Media, and Social Media
        Jimmy Sanderson
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