Kin Games? the Complicity of Universities in the Depoliticization of Health in Sport

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Parissa SAFAI, York University, Canada
Scholarship on the interconnections between sport, medicine and health has steadily grown in the sociology of sport and physical cultural studies in the past few decades such that there is now a (somewhat) defined body of knowledge on the interconnections between sport, medicine and health. Scholars from all across the world have turned their attention towards problematizing the commonplace assertion that ‘sport is good for one’s health’ and contextualizing the sport-health paradox against a backdrop of larger politico-economic, historical and socio-cultural forces. This established and growing body of knowledge is very encouraging for our disciplinary area more broadly, and is also notable since most of the scholars who have contributed to this body of knowledge are situated in academic departments that are management-centric, performance-oriented and/or which prioritize the applied sport sciences. In these departments, it is not uncommon to see scholars who criticize the health-compromising nature of sport systems working down the hall from colleagues focused on transforming the human sporting body into (an ever better) performance machine. The technocratic reconstruction of university physical education departments into Kinesiology, Human Kinetics, Kinesiology and Health Sciences or whatever mutation or combination of like words, as well as the alignment with and ascendance of health promotion, is not a new phenomenon and many have written about the specialization of academic disciplines within Kinesiology, and the transformation of physical education departments into units that de-emphasize the philosophical, ethical, social and cultural study of sport. This paper continues in this vein by focusing on the tensions for researchers, instructors, and students, with specific attention to the Canadian university context, that arise around the de-/politicization of health in sport in academic units that have embraced or are embracing “technicist [tendencies]” (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1985, p. 197, as cited in Macintosh & Whitson, 1990, p. 134).