Academia scholars from across the nation presented their reports on various aspects of sports and identity as part of the New Agendas in Communication series on Friday and Saturday at the Belo Center for New Media.
The conference presents different topics that link together research and studies by a group of scholars from the collegiate rank. At the conference, scholars give a glimpse of the research and work they studied. Eventually, those studies are collected for a book publication produced by the College of Communication as part of the New Agendas in Communication book series.
There were 14 sports-related studies presented at the two-day conference. The studies linked sports with identity topics such as gender, fandom, identity management, politics and race.
Lecturer Luke Winslow presented a study titled “Brawn, Brains, and the Dearth of the Black NFL Quarterback,” which looks at how discourses and personality affects achievement goals and may trigger certain responses to failures within the context of sports and race. Winslow said he hopes people can learn how important it is to question the impact of assuming individual differences based on innate features.
“I would hope folks that read the paper or heard [my] presentation would learn to be more mindful of the language they use,” Winslow said. “Know the social, economic, political impacts of describing someone as a raw athlete or a physical freak versus describing another person as a game manager or a possession receiver.”
Conference organizer Barry Brummett, communication studies department chair, said all of the identities discussed at the conference play a key role in the personalities of a large portion of people worldwide.
“Sports are just so central to our culture,” Brummett said. “Our focus is on sport and identity, and I think sport is so central to people’s identity in our culture, too. I mean for a lot of people, it’s just central to them that they’re Longhorns fans — that it is part of their identity.”
Communications graduate student Maegan Stephens was chair of the “Sport and Fandom” session of the conference. She said one of her main interests is thinking critically about female fandom.
“It kind of makes me ask critically, ‘well why am I a fan,’” Stephens said. “‘Is it just so I can be part of conversations? Is it because I don’t ever want to be at a party and not be able to talk about it?’ Asking those questions about how these things came to be in the first place is important.”
Regardless of who is a Longhorns fan or a sports follower in general, Brummett said he hopes all sports enthusiasts will be more self-aware of how they follow and use sports.
“I don’t want anyone to watch sports or engage less, but that people [watch and engage] in a more self-aware way to do it more critically,” Brummett said. “By critically, I don’t mean it in a negative [way] but to be thinking about what’s going on here and how are we processing what is going on here with different themes of identity.”
Published on February 25, 2013 as "Conference discusses sports and identity links".