Racial Relations Theories and Sport: Suggestions for a More Critical Analysis

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Susan Birrell The University of Iowa

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This paper suggests that sport sociology may be ready to move from a generally atheoretical approach to “race and sport“ to a critical analysis of racial relations and sport. Four theoretical groups are identified from the writing of racial relations scholars: bias and discrimination theories, assimilation and cultural deprivation theories, materialist and class-based theories, and culturalist or colonial theories. In the past, studies of race and sport have fit within the former two theories. A cultural studies approach that blends the latter theories is advocated in order to move toward the goal of critical theory and develop a comprehensive model for analyzing the complex of relations of dominance and subordination simultaneously structured along racial, gender, and class lines.

Susan Birrell is with the Department of Physical Education and Sports Studies at The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242.

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