KRG members Matt, Robbie and Scott presented papers at this year’s NASSS conference. See below for abstracts.

 

Matt Ventresca, Queen’s University and Jennifer Brady, Queen’s University
Food for Thought: Thinking about Food, Sport and the Athletic Body

This paper emerges from a curiosity about food’s role as a technology to improve athletic performance. Relatively little scholarly attention has been given to the theoretical and epistemological assumptions through which food and eating are implicated as vehicles to reproduce the athletic body. Our argument builds upon past work that considered the media panic following National Football League running back Arian Foster’s decision to “go vegan” in advance of the 2012 season (Brady & Ventresca, 2013). While tied to broader issues related to masculinity, race and regional identities, much of the anxiety surrounding Foster’s food practices was fueled by concerns about how a plant-based diet would affect Foster’s strength, endurance and overall performance. This paper broadens the scope of our analysis and explores the theoretical considerations that underlie how food is understood as putatively different from other substances ingested, injected and absorbed by athletes preparing for competition. Considering the food practices of athletes in this light can work to blur the boundaries between natural and synthetic, healthy and unhealthy, legitimate and banned substances. Given that any athlete is located within an entanglement of financial and commercial interests, however, we also interrogate how these boundaries materialize in the context of global media and advertising economies.

 

Robbie Millington, Queen’s University
Repackaging development: The United Nations, governmentality, and sport for development and peace

In this paper delivered to the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, Rob Millington explored how the furthering reach of development measures and markers into the realm of sport and health expands governmental apparatuses and means of surveillance within the development context.  In this way, sport articulates with long-standing development practices and “awareness raising” endeavours that are undergirded by dominant paradigms of modernization and neoliberalism.  Ultimately he considered how Sport for Development and Peace acts as a technology of power through a discursive repackaging of quantifiable measures and symbolic images of “development” that further entrench ideological, corporeal, and political-economic divisions between the global North and South.

 

Scott Carey, Queen’s University
Sporting Acne: Embodied Negotiations of Health and Self through Abject Skin in Sport

In this paper I explore the relationship between acne, health and sport. Skin, as Cavanagh, Failler and Alpha Johnston Hurst (2013) write, has a “biological life, a social life, a fantasy life, a somatic life, a political life, an esthetic life, a life in the “lived body” and a cultural life—all of which inform one another to shape what it means and how it feels to inhabit skin” (p. 3). Departing from this train of thought, I pay close attention to the politics of skin—specifically, the medicalization of acne, dermatological regimes and the healthiest sport landscape to contextualize the different ways “unhealthy” or “pimpled” skin becomes lived in sport. Paradoxically, medicalized knowledge’s produce sport as a health “risk” to acne-prone skin (e.g. sweat, equipment/helmets, etc.) at the same time healthist discourses construct the athlete body as “healthy body.” Thus, I argue that acne and sport converge to produce a cultural context whereupon ideas pertaining to “health” materialize as unstable, contested and contradictory through the athlete’s embodied experience of skin. This paper, then, is concerned with the (inter)subjective negotiations and corporeal tensions that are lived on and through the symbolic, psychical, phenomenological and bacterial surface of the athlete’s skin.