in Sports Studies
Samantha J. King
In the face of what has come to be viewed as the widespread misuse of the signifier “cultural studies,” scholars in the field have devoted considerable energy to defining and delineating the criteria for effective cultural studies research (Andrews, 2002; Bennett, 1992; Grossberg, 1989a; 1989b; 1997a; 1997b; Grossbergetal., 1992; Hall, 1980a; 1980b; Johnson 1986/7; Nelson, 1994).! A claim common to most of these expositions is that the field of cultural studies is characterized by a refusal either to endorse a singular method, or to conceive of and apply methodological tools as rigid, formal templates. Indeed, the usefulness of cultural studies as a critical approach for understanding cultural phenomena is said by these scholars to lie in its interdisciplinarity, anti-formalism, and flexibility — particularly in its sensitivity to changing economic, political, and social conditions.
Taking these claims seriously, this chapter is less of a “how to” guide to cultural studies, and more of an exploration of the ways that the different methods discussed in the remainder of this volume have been taken up within cultural studies analyses of sport (i.e., in “sports studies”). In drawing attention to the enormously diverse range of methods deployed in the field, it is particularly concerned with elaborating upon the assertion that cultural studies research is “sensitive” to its economic, political, and social context. In so doing, the chapter characterizes sports studies as a practice that is most useful when it is characterized by methodological contingency. As is the case with other research traditions, effective work in sports studies employs the methodological tools that will best enable the researcher to answer her or his research questions. Cultural studies approaches to sport are distinctive, however, in that the assembled sources are always analyzed within the context of a network of economic, political, and social linkages that produce and give meaning to them. Called “contextual analysis” or “articulation” by scholars in the field, and strongly embedded in neo-Marxist theories of culture and society, these approaches provide both a methodological framework “for understanding how cultural theorists conceptualize the world, analyze it, and participate in shaping it” (Slack, 1996: 112) as well as a strategy for mapping the complexity of the “constant battlefield” that is cultural life (Hall, 1981: 233).