LSA EXEC ‘top picks’ from Leisure Studies: Thomas Fletcher

This month or Chair, Tom Fletcher offers an insight into the papers published in Leisure Studies that have shaped his research. We hope that you are enjoying this series and it is inspiring you to have a think about your favourite papers in Leisure Studies!

My Top Picks are an excellent reflection of the trajectory of how my own interests and specialisms have developed since entering academia as a PhD student in 2007. My PhD examined issues of race and whiteness in the context of Yorkshire cricket.

On completion of my PhD, I took up a lectureship at Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett) in Events Management (with a sport focus). This appointment seemed quite bizarre to me at the time as I was not an event specialist by any means. My get out of jail card was to remind everyone that ‘life is an event after all’. In the first couple of years of being in this role, I co-edited Sports events, society and culture (Routledge) which made a calling for events research to be more critical through, among other things, embracing leisure theory. Most recently, I have shifted focus on to families and fatherhood in the context of sport and leisure. My monograph Negotiating fatherhood: sport, leisure and family practices is due to Palgrave later in the year. Hopefully, this little bit of blurb will showcase the relevance of my Top Picks.

  1. Race and Cultural Identity: Playing the Race Game Inside Football by Colin King (2004, 23(1))

Colin King, along with the likes of Dan Burdsey, Ben Carrington, Kevin Hylton and Aarti Ratna, inspired my early PhD work. In this paper, King refers to the working of whiteness in our everyday interactions with sport, at all levels. Through a case study of Black football players (he refers to coaches elsewhere), King demonstrates how people from Black and minoritised ethnic backgrounds are pressured to perform to white masculine standards and values. He rallies for people in sports organisations to be much more reflexive in considering how banal practices of whiteness and of white privilege can have quite insidious consequences.

  1. Global Event Management: a critique by Chris Rojek (2014, 33(1))

This article and Chris’ book Event power provided the foundation for my own book Sports events, society and culture. Rojek (2013) calls for greater synergy between event-related research and other established fields, such as leisure studies, in order to encourage more critical scholarship that transcends the current field of events. He argues that whilst event management literature is both diverse and profuse, it is united by self-congratulation; with a worrying tendency to glorify the positive impacts events can make. Rojek believes that (currently at least) there is a reticence within the event management literature to fully deconstruct the utopian vision of events as an intrinsic social good. This is a particularly ferocious extract:

When one looks at the social, cultural and economic outcomes claimed by the likes of Getz (1991, 1997, 2007) and Bowdin et al. (2011, p. 87), with their casual references to ‘celebration spaces’, ‘cultural and economic benefits’, ‘building community pride’, ‘increasing environmental awareness’ and ‘introducing new and challenging ideas’, it is above all, the audacity of the Event Management self-image that comes to mind. Questions of social control, economic inequality and moral regulation are scrupulously marginalised.

  1. Where’s Dad? Fatherhood in Leisure Studies by Tess Kay (2006, 25(2))

It was difficult to single out a single paper from this special issue entitled ‘Fathering through sport and leisure’, edited by Tess Kay. The line-up was subsequently expanded and published as an edited collection by Routledge in 2009. This paper considers fathers and fatherhood as an ‘absent presence’ in leisure studies and argues for the need for and value of incorporating this subject matter within the field. The concepts of fathers, fathering and fatherhood have been consistent features in the leisure studies literature for the last decade, but despite calls from Kay and others, the literature remains undeveloped – especially if we consider the current diversity of family forms. For Kay, there is an irony in the marginalisation of father’s voices in leisure research as it is leisure than men frequently turn to as a mode of parenting.

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