Introduction to Sports and History

$190 cad
Thu Oct 28, 7:00 PM - Thu Dec 2, 9:00 PM (EDT)

The aim of this workshop is to approach modern sports, in its different disciplines and manifestations, as an object of study within the sciences. These practices, initially recreational and present in all types of culture, have been used by governments, companies and educational institutions. Sports were also an efficient means of socialization and entertainment in the leisure time of different social groups. Throughout the workshop we will discuss the different dimensions that sport has been acquiring and how they have been reflected in different communities. In this sense, issues of class, race and gender become especially relevant when analyzing one of the most massive and popular phenomena in our society.

Week 1 Date – Sport as an object of study

In the first class we will address the potential of sport as an object of study. Disciplines, historical contexts and the origins of modern sport and what we understand as such. As a guide to delve into more complex questions we will ask ourselves who are and who were the athletes, as well as the different ways of participating in sport, from the eighteenth to the twentieth century.

Suggested readings for this class are as follows:

  • Pierre Bourdieu, HOW CAN ONE BE A SPORTS FAN? In Sociology in question, London; Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1993. 
  • Norbert Elias, “Introduction”, in Norbert Elias and Eric Dunning, Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilizing Process, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986.


Week 2 Date – Sports and Mass Culture

Sporting events are one more expression of mass culture. Sporting practices break with the hygienist and formative conception under which they were conceived and become another object of mass culture consumption. In this class we will address the scope of this sports culture within mass society. What were its manifestations and who were the protagonists of this liberalization process.

Suggested readings for this class are as follows:

  • Eric Dunning, “The dynamics of modern sport: notes on achievement-striving and the social significance of sport” in, Norbert Elias and Eric Dunning, Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilizing Process, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986.

Week 3 Date – Sport and nation

Different countries are characterized by different types of sports. Some sports are more popular than others, but in most cases there is usually a strong identification between the style of sport and certain national characteristics. On this occasion we will analyze the Argentine case and the German case. We will ask ourselves how this identification is sustained. How and who built that national identity.

Suggested readings for this class are as follows:

  • Matthew B. Karush, National Identity in the Sports Pages: Football and the Mass Media in 1920s Buenos Aires, in The Americas, Vol. 60, No. 1 (Jul., 2003), pp. 11-32, Cambridge University Press.
  • Daniel Fridman & David, M. K. Sheinin, Wild Bulls, Discarded Foreigners, and Brash Champions: US Empire and the Cultural Constructions of Argentine Boxers, in Left History 12.1 (Spring/Summer 2007)


Week 4 Date – Sports and Politics

Just as sports have been at the beck and call of popular culture, its massive reach has been and is also an instrument of mass politics. In this class we will analyze some cases where we can see the political use that has been made of sports. We will ask ourselves about the purpose and how the respective communities have responded to the different events where sport and nation used to be synonymous.

Suggested readings for this class are as follows:

  • Mosse, L, George, Chapter 6 in The Nationalization of the Masses: Political Symbolism and Mass Movements in Germany from the Napoleonic Wars Through the Third Reich, New York : H. Fertig, 1975
  • Hill, Jeffrey, “Introduction: Sport and Politics”, in Journal of Contemporary History 38:3 (2003): 355-61.

Week 5 Date – Sport, Race and Gender

In the same way that we have seen how the culture of the masses, the majorities, has expressed itself through sport, in this class we will focus on the minorities. We will ask ourselves about the historical context of the emergence of Jesse Owens and women's participation in the sports scene.

Suggested readings for this class are as follows:

  • Werlayne Stuart Soares Leite, “BERLIN 1936: The Creation of the Myth Jesse Owens”, in Acta Facultatis Educationis Physicae Universitatis Comenianae, Vol. 57 No 2 2017.
  • Cheryl Cooky, "Girls Just Aren't Interested": The Social Construction of Interest in Girls' Sport, in Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Summer 2009), pp. 259-283


Week 6 Date – Sports, press, cinema and literature

In the final class we will think about some new forms of sport expressions. In the last few decades the production of cinema, literature and media related to sport has been prolific. We will ask ourselves about the current sports scene as an element of today's culture and how it could be approached from the social and human sciences.

Suggested readings for this class are as follows:

  • Hardy, Stephen, “Entrepreneurs, Organizations and the Sports Marketplace”, in Donald Spivey (editor), Sport in America. New Historical Perspectives, Contributions to the Study of Popular Culture, Greenwood Press, Westport y London, 1985: 341-364.  

Juan Borgatello

Age Groups