The visual in sport history: approaches, methodologies and sources

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Huggins, Mike (2015)

Historians of sport now increasingly accept that visual inquiry offers another dimension to social and cultural research into sport and its history. It is complex and its boundaries are rapidly evolving. This overview offers a justification for placing more emphasis on visual approaches and an introduction to the study and interpretation of visual culture in relation to the history of sport. It stresses the importance of adopting a critical approach and the need to be reflective about that critique. An ever-widening range of visual data are now being explored; so, this paper begins with a brief survey of sources that potentially offer rich returns, from film and photographs to posters and paintings or standards and statues. It next provides a critical assessment at an introductory level of some of the more important methodologies now emerging to help interpret these. This can be no more than a personal choice, given their sheer variety and interdisciplinary nature, and the reality that many historians of sport adopt a mixture of methods and approaches. Approaches covered include content analysis, iconography and iconology, semiology, psychoanalysis, discourse analysis, and reception and audience studies. Examples of recent studies of visual studies are used to illustrate the discussion.
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    86 references, page 1 of 9

    2. See the June 2015 exhibition in Berlin, entitled 'Commentary Project: Exploring Football's Visual Culture through Supporters' Flags', reported in the Guardian, 3 June 2015.

    3. See, for example, Paul Wombell, Sportscape: The Evolution of Sports Photography (London: Phaedon Press, 2000).

    4. Vanessa R. Schwartz and Jeannene M. Przyblyski, The Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture Reader (London: Routledge, 2004).

    5. G. Osmond and M. Phillips (eds), Sport History in the Digital Age (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2015).

    6. See Chris Jenks (ed.), Visual Culture (London: Routledge, 1995); John A. Walker and Sarah Chaplin, Visual Culture: An Introduction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997); Nicholas 7. Stuart Hall, Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practice (London: Sage, 1997), 9.

    8. Brian Goldfarb, Visual Pedagogy: Media Cultures In and Beyond the Classroom (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).

    9. Hans Bonde, The Politics of the Male Body in Global Sport: The Danish Involvement (Abingdon: Routledge, 2010), 10. His earlier work, Gymnastics and Politics: Niels Bukh and Male Aesthetics (Copenhagen: Museum Tuscalanum Press, 2006) had drawn heavily on film and photographic evidence.

    10. Mike Huggins, 'The Sporting Gaze: Towards a Visual Turn in Sport History - Documenting Art and Sport', Journal of Sports History 35, no. 2 (2008), 327.

    11. Douglas Harper, Visual Sociology (New York: Routledge, 2012), 1.

    12. Garry Whannel, Fields in Vision: Television Sport and Cultural Transformation (London: Routledge, 1992).

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