Youth, Youngsters and Sport from Antiquity to the Modern Day
The University of Lausanne’s Institute of Sport Sciences and the Social and Political Sciences Faculty will be hosting the 2019 CESH Congress from 12th to 14th September. The theme chosen by the organisers is Youth, Youngsters and Sport from Antiquity to the Modern Day. We are inviting explorations of this theme from historians from all horizons, including those outside the fields of history of sport, history of youth and history of education. In addition, the congress will include several sessions for researchers wishing to present papers on aspects of the history of sport other than “youth”.
The theme for this year’s congress was chosen in response to the fact that, even though sport is commonly associated with youth, few sports historians have focused on the issue of age. Indeed, research into the history of sport has tended to concentrate on aspects such as sportspeople’s/spectators’ national, social, gender or racial identities, rather than on age/age groups. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule in fields such as the history of physical education, the history of bodily and moral discipline policies and the history of supporters. At the same time, research into the history of youth and youngsters has rarely examined physical activities and sport except through brief considerations of military training or leisure pursuits.
Hence, the organisers of CESH Lausanne 2019 decided to encourage historians to embrace the issues of age and age groups and to adopt an intersectional approach (nation, class, social group, race, gender) in order to assess the role played by young people in the emergence, development, spread and consumption of sport and sporting cultures. Contributions may be bottom-up, examining young people as actors in the history of sport, top-down, exploring the effects on young people of policies drawn up for them by adults, or, better, both bottom-up and top-down.
Although the term “sport” is used here in its widest sense and to cover all forms of bodily exercise that have been practiced from Antiquity to the modern day, whether for military, religious, health, educational or economic purposes, or simply for pleasure, researchers are encouraged to use and examine the actual terms the actors involved used to describe their activities and avoid any unsubstantiated use of the word “sport”.
In addition, “youth” and “youngsters” are necessarily plural concepts, as definitions of age groups and the symbolic functions associated with them vary considerably between different societies and periods of history. Indeed, historians, sociologists, ethnologists and anthropologists have shown that the ages at which childhood and youth begin and end vary from one civilisation to another, from one social category to another, from one gender to another, and from one era to another. What is the case from a sports perspective?
- At what age do children start doing sport in different societies? At what age do people stop doing sport? Does giving up sport signal entry to the adult world? Or into the world of seniors, considered too old for physical exercise?
- Could doing sport be seen as a heuristic criterion for defining the transitional state of youth? Does one stay young into old age as long as one continues doing sport?
- Do boys leave the often-maternal world of childhood games by adopting masculine sports rituals? Do girls adopt new forms of exercise as they get older? Does physical exercise play a role in the strict separation between girls and boys or is there a degree of porosity?
- Where there are age distinctions with respect to sports, how did they arise? Do these age categories reflect age categories in the rest of society (puberty, school, work, religion, citizenship), or are they specific to the world of sport? How and by whom are they defined and justified?
- Is it possible to identify “youth sports groups”, that is, communities of young people whose identity is based on their young age and their sports activities? What becomes of these communities of young sportspeople when their members become adults? Do they continue, dilute, evolve, break up, reactivate?
- Do young sportspeople feel particular emotions that are specific to their age? Once they become adults, how much nostalgia do they retain for their sporting pasts?
- Do young sportspeople see themselves primarily as sportspeople or as young people? Is there a methodological risk in reducing them to a single category, that of “sportsperson”, when they also play other social roles in their daily lives? How, here like elsewhere, can age, social position and gender be articulated?
- What part do young people play in the institutions that run sport? Do young people take the initiative to create clubs, leagues or federations? In the case of institutions created and controlled by adults, are young people’s voices heard. How are they viewed?
- In terms of other forms of power exercised by adults over sporting practices (political, medical, educational, military, religious, professional), what impact do they have on young people? How much freedom do they truly have?
- Is it, in fact, possible to explain the success of sport across the centuries by the freedom young people draw from the statute of being a sportsperson? But, paradoxically, do not these practices also, and sometimes simultaneously, have a normative and/or disciplinary dimension?
In order to go beyond national and Eurocentric approaches, we are particularly interested in contributions examining issues on different geographical scales (local, regional, national, international, transnational) or from a non-European (including colonial and post-colonial) perspective. In addition, we would like to encourage contributions focusing on the Middle Ages and the modern era, as periods that have been slightly neglected compared with Antiquity and the contemporary period.