Sport has recently attracted close ethnographic interest as an object of discipline, a realm of popular culture through spectatorship, and through the contemporary craze for health and fitness. Sport has been used as a tool for nationalism and colonialism (Besnier and Brownell 2012; Di-Capua 2004; Jacob 2011; Raab 2012; Yarar 2005), a highly gendered (Alemdaroğlu 2005; Ayub 2011; Bolin and Granskog 2003; Di-Capua 2005; Duncan 1994; Lenskyj 1990; Messner 1990; Samie 2013; Wiederkehr 2009) and embodied (Besnier and Brownell 2012; Jefferson 1998; Wacquant 2004) experience that transforms both the physical bodies and the inner selves of its practitioners. It is a fascinating domain for ethnographic attention as it pushes anthropologists to inspect anthropos—the human—by looking at its tangible corporealities and its intangible aspirations, wills, and desires. Through training the mind, the body, and the soul, physical exercise becomes both the subject and the object of a becoming.

This month, SCA’s Field Notes series experiments with sports and hosts anthropologists working on the subject from diverse angles.


Alemdaroğlu, Ayça. 2005. "Politics of the Body and Eugenic Discourse in Early Republican Turkey." Body & Society 11, no. 3: 61–76.

Ayub, Awista. 2011. "A Closer Look at FIFA’s Hijab Ban: What it Means for Muslim Players and Lessons Learned." SAIS Review 31, no. 1: 43–50.

Besnier, Niko, and Susan Brownell. 2012. "Sport, Modernity, and the Body." Annual Review of Anthropology 41:443–59.

Bolin, Anne, and Jane Granskog. 2003. "Reflexive Ethnography, Women, and Sporting Activities." In Athletic Intruders: Ethnographic Research on Women, Culture and Exercise, edited by Anne Bolin and Jane Granskog, 7–26. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press.

Di-Capua, Yoav. 2004. "Sports, Society, and Revolution: Egypt in the Early 1950’s." In Rethinking Nasserism: Revolution and historical memory in modern Egypt, edited by Elie Podeh and Onn Winckler, 144–62. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

Di-Capua, Yoav. 2005. "Women, Gender, Sports and the Female Body: Arab States." In Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Cultures, edited by S. Joseph and Afsaneh Najmabadi, 440–41. Vol. III. Leiden: Brill.

Duncan, Margaret Carlisle. 1994. "The Politics of Women's Body Images and Practices: Foucault, the Panopticon, and Shape Magazine." Journal of Sport & Social Issues 18, no. 1: 48–65.

Jacob, Wilson Chacko. 2011. Working Out Egypt: Effendi Masculinity and Subject Formation in Colonial Modernity, 1870–1940. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Jefferson, Tony. 1998. "Muscle, `Hard Men' and `Iron' Mike Tyson: Reflections on Desire, Anxiety and the Embodiment of Masculinity." Body & Society 4, no. 1: 77–98.

Lenskyj, Helen. 1990. "Power and Play: Gender and Sexuality Issues in Sport and Physical Activity." International Review for the Sociology of Sport 25, no. 3: 235–45.

Messner, Michael. 1990. "Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities." Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 18, no. 4: 416–44.

Raab, Alon K. 2012. "Sport, Politics and Society in the Arab World (review)." The Middle East Journal 66, no. 3: 558–59.

Samie, Samaya Farooq. 2013. "Hetero-Sexy Self/Body Work and Basketball: The Invisible Sporting Women of British Pakistani Muslim Heritage." South Asian Popular Culture 11, no. 3: 257–70.

Wacquant, Loïc J. D. 2004. Body & Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wiederkehr, Stefan. 2009. "‘We Shall Never Know the Exact Number of Men who Have Competed in the Olympics Posing as Women’: Sport, Gender Verification and the Cold War." The International Journal of the History of Sport 26, no. 4: 556–72.

Yarar, Betül. 2005. "Civilized Women and Light Sports: Modernization, Women and Sport in the Early Republican Period of Turkey." Kadın-Woman 2000 6, no. 2: 1–35.

Posts in This Series

Sports: Provocation

Sports: Provocation

Feminizing Fighting Sports?... More

Sports: Translation

Sports: Translation

Sport as an interrogation of social and cultural life... More

Sports: Deviation

Sports: Deviation

Imagining the Self as Sporting Body... More

Sports: Integration

Sports: Integration

Given my charge of “Integration,” I want to begin by thinking somewhat synthetically about my collaborators and their insights. Across Rana, Besnier, and Sehlik... More