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Power, Politics and “Sport for Development and Peace”: Investigating the Utility of Sport for International Development

Simon C. Darnell

Sport is currently mobilized as a tool of international development within the “Sport for Development and Peace” (SDP) movement. Framed by Gramscian hegemony theory and sport and development studies respectively, this article offers an analysis of the conceptualization of sport’s social and political utility within SDP programs. Drawing on the perspectives of young Canadians (n = 27) who served as volunteer interns within Commonwealth Games Canada’s International Development through Sport program, the dominant ideologies of development and social change that underpin current SDP practices are investigated. The results suggest that while sport does offer a new and unique tool that successfully aligns with a development mandate, the logic of sport is also compatible with the hegemony of neo-liberal development philosophy. As a result, careful consideration of the social politics of sport and development within the SDP movement is called for.

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Sport and Social Mobility: Crossing Boundaries

Simon C. Darnell

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Caster Semenya, Gender Verification and the Politics of Fairness in an Online Track & Field Community

Cassandra Wells and Simon C. Darnell

The sex testing of South African runner Caster Semenya in 2009 was widely discussed in media, but the most serious and significant sites of debate may have been within the cultures and institutions of track & field itself. In this article, we report findings from an analysis of an online track & field community—TrackNet Listserv—through which the Semenya case, and the politics and ethics of sex testing, were discussed. The results suggest that listserv members recognized the contestability of sex testing policies and identified with feminist struggles, but nevertheless largely argued for sex testing’s necessity in light of understandings of the biologically normative female body and the importance of maintaining fairness in and through sex-segregated sport. The implications for the sport of track & field and for sporting feminisms are discussed.

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Development, Gender and Sport: Theorizing a Feminist Practice of the Capabilities Approach in Sport for Development

Sarah Zipp, Tavis Smith, and Simon Darnell

Sport for development (SFD) research and practice has become more critically examined recently, with many scholars calling for better understanding of how and why sport might contribute to the global development movement. Developing and refining theoretical approaches is key to unpacking the complexities of SFD. Yet, theory development in SFD is still relatively young and often relies on oversimplified theory of change models. In this article, the authors propose a new theoretical approach, drawing upon the capabilities approach and critical feminist perspectives. The authors contend that the capabilities approach is effective in challenging neoliberal ideologies and examining a range of factors that influence people’s lived experiences. They have woven a “gender lens” across the capabilities approach framework, as feminist perspectives are often overlooked, subjugated, or misunderstood. The authors also provide an adaptable diagrammatic model to support researchers and practitioners in applying this framework in the SFD context.

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Ecological Modernization and the Olympics: The Case of Golf and Rio’s “Green” Games

Rob Millington, Simon C. Darnell, and Brad Millington

Ecological modernization refers to the idea that capitalist-driven scientific and technological advancements can not only attend to the world’s pending environmental crises, but even lead to ecological improvement, thus allowing sustainability and consumption to continue in concert. In this paper, we examine ecological modernization at the confluence of environmentalism, international development and global sport. Through an analysis of golf and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, we argue that golf’s return to the Olympic program is illustrative of a post-political approach to environmentalism, whereby ecological modernization is posited as a common-sense response to addressing matters of global climate change.

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Becoming an Occupation? A Research Agenda Into the Professionalization of the Sport for Development and Peace Sector

Mitchell McSweeney, Rob Millington, Lyndsay M.C. Hayhurst, and Simon Darnell

Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) has transformed from what some termed a “social movement” to an institutionalized sector with numerous organizations and practitioners involved, resulting in trends that point toward SDP becoming a recognized category of work through professional training. The purpose of this paper is to utilize theories of professions and institutional isomorphism to advance the significance and importance of thinking about SDP as a profession. Three emerging trends that point to the professionalization of SDP are reviewed: (a) increasing opportunities to attain SDP certifications and training, (b) the growing number of SDP-specific academic degrees, and (c) the creation of a SDP knowledge base, particularly in relation to monitoring and evaluation. To conclude, theoretical and practical implications of the professionalization of SDP are discussed and a research agenda is outlined for future research on the continued institutionalization, and professionalization, of the SDP sector.

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Re-Assembling Sport for Development and Peace Through Actor Network Theory: Insights from Kingston, Jamaica

Simon C. Darnell, Richard Giulianotti, P. David Howe, and Holly Collison

Some recent appraisals of Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) research have found it to be deterministic and ideological, and lacking sophistication and specificity with regards to theory and method. Notably, such criticisms dovetail with the foundations of Actor Network Theory (ANT). Based on fieldwork in Kingston, Jamaica, we draw on ANT to ‘re-assemble’ the understanding of SDP programs by examining their constitutive elements. The results illustrate the connections necessary for SDP to cohere, and the range of actors in the field, including international funders, funds themselves, and concepts regarding sport’s development utility. Investigating these assemblages facilitates a non-deterministic understanding of the ways in which sport is mobilized in the service of development and peace, while allowing for a nuanced and empirically sound assessment of power and agency.

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“Building Back Better”: Seeking an Equitable Return to Sport for Development in the Wake of COVID-19

Richard Norman, Daniel Sailofsky, Simon Darnell, Marika Warner, and Bryan Heal

The COVID-19 pandemic affected sport programming by restricting in-person activities. Concurrently, global outcry for racial justice for Black and racialized communities promoted calls to action to assess equitable practices in sport, including sport for development (SFD). This study critically examined SFD “return to play” programming to include perspectives from racialized persons’ lived experiences. We present findings based on data collected from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Foundation’s Change the Game campaign, which explored questions of sport inequity to “build back better.” Outcomes further SFD discourses challenging (potentially) harmful structures affecting participants, including underreported effects of racialization. The study used both quantitative and qualitative analyses of survey data on youth experiences, enablers, and barriers in sport and analyzed these results within an antiracist, antioppressive, and decolonial conceptual framework.

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A Critical Examination of Race and Antiracism in the Sport for Development Field: An Introduction

Meredith A. Whitley, Joseph N. Cooper, Simon C. Darnell, Akilah R. Carter-Francique, and Kip G. O’Rourke-Brown