Making Sense of 'Ireland', Sport and Identity: The Craft of Doing Sociology

Katie Liston, Joseph Maguire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
89 Downloads (Pure)


Eric Dunning influenced the development of curricula and research agendas in sociology, history, social science and sports studies, internationally, in the UK and in Ireland. Dunning was also doctoral supervisor to, and academic colleague/mentor and friend of, both authors (at Leicester, Dublin and Chester). Inspired by him, this paper reflects on the craft of sociological research. The case study is the struggle for recognition of ‘Ireland’ in international athletics and the associated painstaking ongoing archival and mixed methods research work in multiple venues, involving sporting, state and personal papers, interviews and oral history sources. Such a history of the social dynamics of charisma and shame between the so-called ‘mother country’ (Great Britain) and a restless dominion (Ireland) was by no means structureless or patternless, but ontologically interdependent with life today. Accordingly, we consider several themes: the interplay between theory and evidence, the involvement-detachment balance and exploring knowledge figurations. In line with Dunning (and Elias), the paper adopts an anticipatory motif, that is to say, the work of understanding social relations between the ‘British’ and ‘Irish’ ‘then’ and ‘now’ is not finished. This work is one step in carrying forth the baton – the stock of intergenerational knowledge – about doing sociology, handed to us in trust by Dunning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1587-1605
Number of pages19
JournalSport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics
Issue number10
Early online date15 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished online - 15 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Figurational sociology
  • Olympics
  • research methods
  • sport
  • statecraft
  • ‘Ireland’


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