International conference
on the position of sport studies in social science
Malmö, April 19–21, 2012
The Social Science of Sport:
Quality, Position, and

The conference is now full, and will take place according to plans, detailed below. Paper sessions are closed, but the keynote lectures are open to the public. For further information, follow this link:

Call for Papers

As a second installment in the conference series Centers and Peripheries in Sport the Dept. of Sport Sciences at Malmö University proudly presents

The Social Science of Sport:
Quality, Position, and Relevance

Malmö, Sweden, April 19–21, 2012

Confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Barrie Houlihan, Loughborough University
  • Angela Schneider, University of Western Ontario
  • Boria Majumdar, University of Central Lancashire
  • Christine Toohey, Griffith University
  • Jay Coakley, University of Colorado


In Knowledge and Human Interest, Jürgen Habermas clearly demonstrates that knowledge and science is founded on different interests. He dismisses positivism for serving the interest of control and instrumental reason, and criticizes hermeneutics for being founded in a vicious circle of contextualism and the absence of ideological criticism. Habermas is searching for a “critical theory” that could guide social science beyond, for instance, instrumentalism and contextualism. Looking at the development of the social sciences of sports we find positions similar to Habermas’ definition of positivism and hermeneutics, without profound critical reflections on the “ideology of positive sport”. The study of sport is either instrumental, in order to improve sporting results, or contextual, in order to understand the “specificity” of the sporting culture.

Academic research at the Department of Sport Sciences at Malmö University is essentially focused on social and cultural studies, and this has been advantageous for its development towards becoming a vital environment for sport studies. There has, however, emerged a need for substantial reflections on the “scientific” status of sport studies and problems related to this development. The recruitment of faculty staff has been geared towards several different academic disciplines and academic fields – psychology, sociology, ethnology, history, urban geography, philosophy and sociology of law among others, that essentially creates a cross-disciplinary horizon. However, to satisfy the needs of a PhD-program in “sport science”, the department has to develop a multi-disciplinary approach, regardless the cross-disciplinary structure of the faculty. In addition, since the department works closely with the sporting practice, by tradition as well as ideology, research is expected to be relevant to that practice, at least to some extent.

The close association to sports, ideologically as well as by individual experiences and preferences, is fertile soil for anecdotes as well as normativity, in absence of essential theoretical foundations in sport studies. These local reflections are evidently in line with more global considerations of the character of social and cultural sport sciences, where a substantial discourse on the epistemology, social relevance of sport, and the scientific status are more or less absent or overshadowed by more hands-on-studies.


In various ways and in different areas, sport has contributed to the improvement of products in society. Motor sport, for instance, has been instrumental in profound advances of motor vehicles in general. The broadcasting of sports events is behind many technical innovations in television. The production of digital clocks has been influenced by the temporal logics of sports.

Similarly, one might expect that sport science has made contributions to science in general. In the Anglo-American world, sport science is generally interpreted as medical, physiological and psychological studies of sports, and in those disciplines we will find practical as well as theoretical contributions to the respective mother disciplines. In Europe, though, sport science denotes any academic study of sports, be it based in the natural sciences or in, for instance, sociology, history, philosophy or economy.

Now, if we consider the social and cultural sport sciences, will we find any kind of evidence that such research has in any way contributed to advances of the theoretical development of social science and theory or cultural science? Probably not, although the study of sports relies heavily on theories and methods developed within a number of social science disciplines. So, what are the reasons for this lack of reciprocity? To find out, we have to look at the internal characters and status of social and cultural sport science in Academia, related to:

  • The history and the localization of the development of sport studies.
  • The recruitment of research staff related to sport studies.
  • The impact of gender issues on the progress of the social and cultural sport sciences.
  • An internal epistemological and ontological discourse versus stereotypical sports “anecdotes”.
  • The scientific legacy of sport studies.
  • The scientist being a part of popular culture and the subject that is studied.
  • A normative and ideological point of departure.
  • The hegemony of (standard) social theories used in sport studies.
  • The mixture of cross- and multidisciplinary approaches.
  • The emphasis on “sports relevance ” versus “ a relevance for society” and the social impact of sport science.

The Department of Sport Sciences in Malmö invites papers that discuss the scientific quality of sport studies and the position of social and cultural sport science in Academia along the lines presented above.

Please submit ABSTRACTS (250–400 words) electronically (a Word document attached to an e-mail) to Kjell E. Eriksson ( no later than January 15, 2012. Notification of acceptance will be given no later than February 15, 2012. Accepted papers will be considered for publication in a planned special issue of Sport in Society, or in Scandinavian Sport Studies Forum. If selected for publication, authors will be asked to submit a manuscript (of no more than 7 000 words) within a suitable time frame, to be subjected to a double blind review process.

During the conference there will be an international intensive PhD-course in relation to the scientific status and character of sport science, “Sport Science and Scientific Quality, Position and Relevance”

For further information, please contact Bo Carlsson, Malmö University (

Publisher Kristian Sjövik | Webmaster Kjell E. Eriksson | Updated 2012-04-16