LSA Exec Top Picks: David Scott

The wonderful thing about Leisure Studies is the sheer variety it affords within its scope. The openness and breadth of discussion provided by both the journal and association were one of the main things that struck me during my first involvement with the LSA at the 2014 annual conference (remember when physical conferences were a thing? *sigh*). While the majority of my academic focus has been on sport, via sociology, physical education, and psychology, Leisure Studies has expanded my horizons exponentially due to the continuously fascinating topics which are included within its remit. Having said that, my main research interests are reflected within my picks here, which were all highly inspirational during my PhD studies and continue to influence my critical understanding of the world today.

My first pick is Kath Woodward’s (2009) “Bodies on the margins: regulating bodies, regulatory bodies” (vol 28:2) – and not just because she was one my PhD supervisors. Her body of work is truly inspirational (and incredibly daunting to a nervous, uncertain doctoral student), and this article encapsulates many of the conceptual arguments she has developed and furthered through her research. Woodward reminds us that sport and leisure involves extensive use of the ‘body’, and therefore these experiences might be understood through our ‘embodied selves’. Using this concept as a basis, she goes on to discuss how identity and identity politics within sport can be used to understand those who are positioned at the margins of society. Sport is considered to be a site where ‘healthy citizens’ are cultivated, which is why it is a common vehicle for ‘sport-for-good’ projects such as the anti-racism and diversity projects focused on here. However, Woodward identifies that others may use their bodily practices to protest and resist movements such as this, therefore continuing to exclude those considered to be marginalised. For me, this work is powerful for many reasons, one of which is because it artfully bridges the gap commonly perceived to exist between such theoretical concepts as ‘embodied selves’ and more practical and political issues, in this instance diversity policies in sport.

My second pick is also steeped in phenomenological theory, which is Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson and Aspadia Leledaki’s (2015) “Sensing the outdoors: a visual and haptic phenomenology of outdoor exercise embodiment” (vol 34:4). As with in the first pick, this work focuses on the body and physical sensations associated with doing sport and leisure. The terms ‘sensory ethnography’ and ‘phenomenological-sociology’ are of key interest here, as they engage with those intangible elements which are so frequently overlooked in participation evaluation work. This study helps to strengthen these theorisations of why people enjoy (and occasionally do not enjoy) engaging with sport and leisure in particular environments, with focus on the personal, sensory and haptic elements bringing their experiences to life for the reader. This work resonates with me so much because it adds to understandings about the role sport and leisure play within people’s identity and everyday lives.

Speaking of the everyday (and finally moving away from phenomenology), my third pick is Elizabeth Pike and Simon Beames’ (2007) “A critical interactionist analysis of ‘youth development’ expeditions” (vol 26:2). The main reason for this pick is that this study is an excellent example of how to apply Erving Goffman’s microsociology within a sport-for-development context, which resulted in sound critique of the mythologised ‘power of sport’. Instead, the authors expertly discuss how the actions of those running the expedition actually limited the sense of risk, control, and agency those participating on the programme experienced, thus drawing comparisons with Goffman’s concept of the ‘total institution’. By doing so attention is drawn to the supposed benefits and outcomes typically associated by such programmes, including ‘character development’ and ‘leadership’, which are resoundingly questioned in terms of their legitimacy. This, much like my other picks, enables participation within sport and leisure to be understood more thoroughly through a critique of the intangible sensations we experience.

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