Revisiting the feminist-figurational sociology exchange

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This essay revisits aspects of the exchange in the sociology of sport between feminists andfigurational sociologists on the role of values in research, the balance betweeninvolvement-detachment on the part of the researcher, and the role of academic researchmore generally. In this regard, the essay summarizes this exchange in three main ‘rounds’and tries to make an incremental contribution by drawing upon some developments infeminist theory and figurational sociological research since the 1990s. It will argue,contrary to Dunning and Colwell, that there is some evidence, at least at the theoreticallevel, to suggest that the two positions are, perhaps, not as mutually exclusive as has beenpreviously suggested, even though some important distinctions between the twoapproaches remain and that revolve around the roles of values in research. In the light ofthis, this essay also revisits Elias’s work – Involvement and Detachment – in order toclarify some of the complexities associated with this argument. This essay concludes bysuggesting that there are a number of common themes in the work of feminists andfigurational sociologists which, when considered together, provide a relatively usefulbackdrop for further and more fruitful dialogue between feminists and figurationalsociologists. Overall, this essay can be taken as an attempt to contribute to theadvancement of knowledge by suggesting ideas for further theoretical and empiricalverification in the area of gender relations in sport.IntroductionThe exchange between feminists and figurational sociologists in the sociology ofsport has a relatively recent history. It seems to have originated betweenHargreaves and Dunning in the 1980s. It was continued subsequently by these twoauthors in the 1990s and has been extended more recently by MansfieldISSN 1743-0437 (print)/ISSN 1743-0445 (online)/07/040623-23 q 2007 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/17430430701425467Katie Liston, Chester Centre for Research into Sport and Society, University of Chester, Parkgate Road, ChesterCH1 4BJ.Correspondence to: in SocietyVol. 10, No. 4, July 2007, pp. 623–645Downloaded by
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-646
JournalSport in Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2006


  • feminism
  • sport
  • figurational sociology
  • involvement and detachment


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