chapter  4
22 Pages

Re-confronting whiteness

Ongoing challenges in sport and leisure research
ByBeccy Watson, Sheila Scraton

In 2001 we considered how we, as feminist scholars researching leisure and sport, needed to ‘confront’ our whiteness across the research process. We were reflective and fairly upfront in recognising that we failed, initially, to interrogate our whiteness and that for the most part we positioned ourselves as ‘raceless’ (Watson and Scraton 2001: 269). We drew on hooks’ calls regarding ‘examining the self from a new critical perspective’ (1989: 118) and we were mindful of Mirza’s (1997) observation that the margins are a ‘trendy’ place for academics to hang out. In our attempts to expose and explore evidence of our power and privilege (as white, middle class, able bodied) we sought to ‘give voice’ to the other in more egalitarian ways. Over a decade later we continue to grapple with these issues and our position and perspective is (still) informed by a number of pertinent topics ranging across discourses of difference and an epistemological turn that appears to attempt appeasement with regards the ‘narrativisation’ of the self at the expense of confronting persistent sites of power and privilege (in research and the academe more broadly). In this chapter we engage with a range of themes that we believe help demonstrate how critical work about whiteness remains necessary in documenting leisure and sport in intersecting and interconnected contexts. We draw on illustrations from our experiences as researchers including work on ethnicity and ageing in leisure including active leisure and recreation, gender and active bodies in the outdoors, the racialised self in sport and leisure, and embodied masculinities as intersectional across dance and sport. In doing so we draw on discourses of difference, looking back to 2001 and to the present to assess the shifting boundaries of marginal, peripheral, central, considering the ways in which aspects of marginalisation and othering persist. We also consider how a relatively recent emphasis on ‘new’ forms of data elicitation, something of an epistemological turn, has not always been helpful in challenging dominant discourses that we, as researchers (generically), often claim to set out to disrupt. We conclude by offering possible research agendas for critical work in active recreation, physical activity, and sport in the broader context of leisure.