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The Anthropology of Sport- Olympic Analyses

The Anthropology of Sport- Olympic Analyses

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Published by Carlos Motta

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Published by: Carlos Motta on Apr 18, 2013
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07/04/2014

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Adam Slotnick 1
 August 6, 2012
The Anthropology of Sport: Olympic Analyses
Sport remains a fringe research area within cultural anthropology. There is a fairly robustamount of research in our sister field of sociology. London based SAGE Publications prints the
 Journal of Sports & Social Issues
(monthly) and
 International Review for the Sociology of Sport 
 (bimonthly). There are no compatible anthropological journals. The preliminary AmericanAnthropological Association
s annual meeting lists 16 sessions under the
sport
key word. Someof them appear to have a very tangential relationship with sports. Yet, the anthropological study
of sport is a holistic field. Harvard biological anthropologist Daniel Lieberman’s research into
endurance running has earned him recognition as one of the founders of the barefoot runningmovement. Archaeologists help us to understand the ball games of Mesoamerican societies andmy own research has examined sociolinguistics within sports. Niko Besnier and SusanBrownell
’s forthcoming article “
Sport, Modernity and the Body
” in the
 Annual Review of  Anthropology
gives impetus for anthropologists to engage in sports research. Ethnography is animportant tool in this endeavor. Cultural anthropology has a unique opportunity to enhance thefield of sports studies.The Olympics are currently captivating billions worldwide. While the Olympicsshowcase the best professionals and amateurs in media sports, the Olympic platform offers theopportunity to address contemporary cultural issues. Besnier and Brownell articulate theimportance of sport in anthropology:
Sport provides a novel angle for the investigation of 
fundamental questions in contemporary anthropology”
and
“ethnography could contribute tounderstanding the social problems in sport” (Besnier and Brownell 2012:454).
Cultural issuessuch as racism, female inequality, national identity in a globalized environment, unequal access
 
Adam Slotnick 2to sport facilities and disability in a modernizing world can all be examined through the lens of the 30
th
Olympiad. I will utilize Besnier and Brownell
’s paper as a basis for analyzing particular 
issues highlighted by the Olympics during the next few weeks.
Sample Research Questions
 How do viewers identify with athletes representing their nation? How do athletes negotiatemultiple nationalities? How do national rivalries form? Are they more intense in particular sports? Is the number of athletes representing a nation and its medal count proportional to its population? Did any athlete refuse to compete against an athlete from other nations? Do nationalreligious minority viewers identify with athletes of their faith? Are women allowed to compete inthe same sports as men? Are men allowed to compete in the same sports as women? Are menallowed to compete with women? How does income affect athletic participation? How has theinclusion of disabled athletes among their able bodied peers affected participants and viewers?Will the Paralympic Games receive more coverage in the US due to the increasing number of disabled military veterans competing? How effective are the founding Olympic ideals? Can sport be used for development and peace? How is the Olympian body portrayed and received?
The author is an anthropology graduate student at Florida Atlantic University of Boca Raton. His main interest involves the intersection of the anthropologies of sport and the body. Onechapter 
of his Master’s thesis involves examining the Ironman Triathlon M Dot tattoo using  sociolinguist Dell Hyme’s S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G. model.

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