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Call for Proposed Articles – Sport and Oral History


Proposal for Special Issue of The International Journal of the History of Sport

Sport and Oral History

Editors: Mike Cronin (Boston College) & Carly Adams (University of Lethbridge).

In a 2016 edition of this journal, a special issue that focused on methodology and sport history, Fiona Skillen and Carol Osbourne offered a useful overview of oral history, sport history and heritage. They concluded that ‘the democratizing power of oral history can be understood as not only residing in the varied community and subcultural sporting contexts in which it has typically taken place, but potentially in the classroom too’. This conclusion appeals to the idea that sporting cultures represent a variety of communities which are open to the methodology of oral history as they may have been, due to the assumed peripheral nature of sporting communities, bypassed by traditional archives and historical methodologies. It is clear when reviewing the main texts in oral history that examples of methodologies, approaches or case studies do not include sport (see for example the omission of sport, or indeed any physical culture, from Robert Perks and Alistair Thompson, The Oral History Reader, Routledge, 2016, 3rd edn.) There are however, as Skillen and Osbourne make clear, many examples of oral history projects that have been undertaken in recent years which have been successfully built around sporting topics, events or communities.

However, oral history is not an easy thing to do. It is time consuming, methodologically rigorous and its practice and dissemination has wide ranging legal implications. Rather than being, as it was positioned in the 1960s, a simple and accessible tool for the recovery of ‘history from below’ that was open to anyone with willing interviewees and a tape recorder, oral history has become a complex and challenging methodology. Historians of sport have mostly avoided oral history and confined themselves to written archives and source material, most notably the newspaper, as a means of uncovering the past. While there are many sports history projects that have taken an oral history approach it is perhaps sports sociologists who have been more adept at using a variety of orally based interview techniques to produce data and evidence.

It is not the aim of this special issue to rehearse the argument that oral history is a useful part of the methodological tool box possessed by sport historians as that point was well established by Skillen and Osbourne. The aim of this issue is to highlight a series of international projects that have used oral history methodology and to demonstrate what findings and conclusions were possible through oral history that would have been closed to traditional archive-based research. In this the special issue should function as an inspiration to future researchers and instructors.

The editors of the special issue are looking for articles that engage with the methodologies and challenges of oral history in a sports history setting. Topics may include:

  • Examples of how sport history projects have been built around oral history.
  • Papers that focus, for example, on how oral history has accessed the memories of athletes from the past, those that have charted the division between professional and amateur sports, projects that have been part of a wider social/community history of which sport is one factor or projects that are part of wider memory recovery such as working with individuals suffering from dementia and other related ailments.
  • Work in sports history that has used oral history specifically to access family or inter-generational memories.
  • How oral history has allowed research to access specific sub cultures in sport that are not traditionally located in the ‘established’ archive.
  • The problems and challenges associated with using oral history for sports history.
  • The legal and ethical challenges associated with oral history methodologies in a sport setting in areas such as youth sport, sexual abuse, team cultures and so on.
  • How oral history projects, given the scale of the archive that can be built around interviews, are most effectively archived and subsequently made available. This is especially relevant for those research projects that have used oral history as a method and subsequently present material via a digital archive.
  • The place of oral history in a sport setting and how its fits alongside wider methodological approaches such as memory studies and broader questions of remembering and forgetting.
  • Projects where oral history has been used alongside a traditional archive and where the findings from each differ from and challenge the other.
  • The use of oral history and sports history in an undergraduate and graduate classroom setting.

Proposed articles should be between 8,000 and 10,000 words and conform to the house style of the journal, details of which can be found here:

To submit a proposal for consideration contact Mike Cronin

The proposal of 500 words should outline your paper, the role of oral history within the work undertaken and the arguments you are making regarding the possible interfaces between sports history and oral history. These should be submitted by 30 November 2018. Once the selection of papers has been decided, final versions of papers would be due to the editors by the end of June 2019.