Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Leisure Research by Canadians and Americans: One Community or Two Solitudes?

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Leisure Research by Canadians and Americans: One Community or Two Solitudes?

Article excerpt

Introduction and Background

Over the last three decades, many reviews of leisure studies, both quantitative and qualitative in nature, have appeared in the literature (e.g., Austin & Kennedy, 1983; Beckers, 1995; Bedini & Wu, 1994; Burdge, 1983, 1989; Coalter, 1999; Crandall & Lewko, 1976; Driver, 1999; Godbey, 1989; Henderson, Sessoms, Chen, & Hsiao, 1993; Iso-Ahola, 1986; Jackson & Burton, 1989; Jordan & Roland, 1999; Lewko & Crandall, 1980; McLellan, 1980; Riddick, DeSchriver, Weissinger, 1984; Samdahl & Kelly, 1999; Szymanski, 1980; Valentine, Alison, & Schneider, 1999; Van Doren and Heit, 1973; Van Doren, Holland, & Crompton, 1984). A theme that has emerged in some of the more recent commentaries is the perceived separation of leisure research in North America from comparable work being conducted elsewhere in the world, especially the UK and Europe. Not only have critiques of this kind expressed concern about different dominating paradigms, theories, and disciplinary underpinnings that have shaped the course of leisure studies in the various world regions, but several authors have also argued that North American leisure research is parochial and isolated, both geographically and intellectually (see, for example, Samdahl & Kelly, 1999). This parochialism is manifested in several ways: differences in disciplinary origins and intellectual traditions, most notably relative emphases on structure versus agency (Rojek, 1989); the types of objectives and questions addressed in research; assumptions about the nature of leisure; and, ultimately, the diverging pictures of the nature of leisure that have emerged in different countries and world regions (see, for example, Coalter, 1999).

One recent case in point is an article by Valentine et al. (1999), in which-with the objective of examining the extent of globalization in leisure research-the authors used content analysis to review the substance and international orientation of 1352 articles published in the Journal of Leisure Research, Leisure Sciences, and Leisure Studies. They concluded that only a tiny proportion of articles were cross-national. More importantly for the present study, they detected what they described as a high level of ethnocentrism, particularly among North American scholars. This, they contended, limits academic and professional growth.

A feature of Valentine et al.'s article was the striking omission of any explicit mention of Canadian leisure research, researchers, or academic departments, either because the authors overlooked Canadian contributions to the field, or inadvertently equated the borders of the United States with those of the continent. In a sense, then, the authors were guilty of committing exactly the same error for which they were castigating their colleagues in the North American leisure studies community, albeit in this case on a continental rather than a global scale. This criticism was forcefully made by Walker (2000), who directed Americans' attention to institutions, researchers, and journals in Canada, noting also the sizable contributions of Canadians to publication activity in the USA.

As part of the ongoing process of evaluating leisure studies referred to above, I have been conducting a research project since 1999 with a view to identifying and understanding variations in patterns of research activity and dissemination, as well as other aspects of participation in the North American leisure studies community. In a published paper based solely on data about participation in leisure research conferences (Jackson, 2001), I have established that there is a very high degree of concentration of research activity among a small proportion of individuals within the larger research community. The present article focuses in detail on another aspect of the patterns represented by a large data base summarizing research activity and its dissemination by North American leisure researchers: similarities and differences between Canadians and Americans,1 and the extent to which research-and researchers-in the two countries can be considered as a single, integrated community, or, alternatively, two solitudes existing side-by-side but in intellectual isolation from each other. …

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