Decolonizing Sport and Exercise Psychology Within a European Context: A Critical Overview

Sepandarmaz Mashreghi
Department of Sport Sciences, Malmö University, Sweden

Until recently, sport and exercise psychologists have been researching acculturation and its relation with sport and exercise through a lens of universalism and (post)positivism. Using such ontological and epistemological assumptions, researchers have been preoccupied with finding linear patterns that predict the behaviours of immigrants in their new environments without much consideration to historical, sociopolitical and cultural contexts (Chirkov, 2009a). Acculturation, however, is a changing process that is extended over time and revolves within and around specific historical, political and cultural contexts. Considerations from post/anti/decolonial studies maintain that through the western eyes, race and ethnicity have become synonymous for non-white people who have been positioned as different and lesser than their white counterparts (Butryn, 2009). Western scholarship has continued to place this ‘cultural other’ in the margins of the society and in constant need of intervention. Despite a call for rethinking the epistemological understanding of the acculturation and its relation to sport and exercise (Chirkov, 2009b; Ryba & Schinke, 2009), European and Scandinavias sport and exercise psychology has remained unchallenged territory for the most part. This critical overview is a call for decolonizing the knowledge and scholarship within sport and exercise psychology by utilizing transformative approaches that centralize the voices of the cultural ‘other’ and treat them as active agents in the process of knowledge production.

Click here to read this peer reviewed article in Scandinavian Sport Studies Forum, Vol. 11, 2020

SEPANDARMAZ MASHREGHI is a Ph.D. student at Malmö University. Her research focuses on the interplay of cultural and psychosocial influences on the understanding and participation in physical activity. She uses a critical anti-/de-colonial interpretation of physical activity and its implications on individuals’ and the larger society’s well-being. In her current project, she considers the critical and transformative aspects of using decolonial and culturally relevant methodologies (i.e. visual and arts-based methods) within a participatory action research model in order to explore young refugees engagement with physical activity, movement and sport.


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