Sports Studies and Qualitative Research
Michael L. Silk, David L. Andrews and Daniel S. Mason
The academic discipline known as “sports studies” has evolved over the last few decades into an eclectic mix of research ideologies and viewpoints that seek to critically investigate the role, effects and position of sport within broader society. Contextualizing sport within networks of political, economic and social linkages, the field of sports studies critically interrogates the sporting empirical and attempts to provide comprehension of the dynamism and complexities of cultural life. Such an approach is one that recognizes the creative and contextual character of human interaction (Hammersley, 1989), a position that centers on research designs suited to studying performative human beings in their lived (physical) cultural domains. As the following chapters will show however, the field has developed a number of (at times, conflicting) viewpoints on the nature of research, the types of research questions that are asked, and the manner through which these questions can be explored. In many instances, these views have been taken from broader, parent disciplines, such as history, cultural studies, cultural geography, management, psychology, and/or sociology, and have been held by scholars in traditional kinesiology/physical education/sports studies programs, or by scholars in parent disciplines who have chosen to focus on sport in their research.
Locating sport — as a cultural form within which the production of knowledge and identities takes place — within the material and institutional contexts that structure everyday life provides the underlying site for the critical interrogation of sporting experiences, forms, meanings, structures, and practices. No longer marginalized as a second-rate field of study within academe, and indeed taking a central role in a symbolically oriented, global, entertainment economy, the study of sport must now be taken seriously. Sport provides the site for critical interrogation through a variety of theories or “lenses,” a space that has been characterized by a broad spectrum of research approaches, interdisciplinarity, flexibility, and, as Samantha King indicates in the second chapter of this volume, a methodological contingency that can allow the researcher to employ the tools suitable for critical interrogation of the particular sporting phenomena under investigation.