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A Twitch in Time Saves Nine: Birdwatching, Sport, and Civilizing Processes

Kenneth Sheard

This study takes an activity, birdwatching, which would appear to fall into the category of leisure activity, and argues using Norbert Elias’s theory of civilizing processes that birdwatching incorporates many of the characteristics of “civilized” sport. The focus is not on birdwatching per se but upon specific types of birdwatching activity: birding and twitching. The suggestion that birding is symbolic hunting is examined, and it is argued that the link between a relatively benevolent and scientific interest in birds and the “real” sport of hunting is historically much closer than often recognized. It is further suggested that the post-war popularization of birdwatching in Britain led to its routinization and a decline in its excitement-generating properties. Competitive birding restored some of the activity’s sport-like excitement, but birding was itself routinized and supplemented by twitching, an even more sport-like activity.

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“Pain in the Assets”: The Effects of Commercialization and Professionalization on the Management of Injury in English Rugby Union

Dominic Malcolm and Kenneth Sheard

This paper examines the management of injuries in men’s elite rugby union in England and, in particular, how this has altered as a consequence of the (formal) professionalization of the game in 1995. Data are drawn from 42 in-depth, semistructured interviews, conducted with seven coaches/directors of rugby, nine rugby club doctors, ten physiotherapists, and sixteen players. Partly as a consequence of examining pain and injury developmentally, our findings contrast with much of the existing sociological research in the area. The professionalization of rugby union, we argue, has not led to a greater acceptance of pain and injury in the sport or to a higher level of pressure upon, or “coercion” of, players to play under such conditions. Rather professional players receive markedly better medical backup and seem increasingly disposed to utilizing it.