ASA2023 – Sport and play in an unwell world

Words by Kay Mars and Lieke van der Veer

Kay and Lieke
Kay and Lieke

How do Queer sports organizations challenge dominant forms of “doing diversity” in sports? Can critical forms of (Queer) inclusivity contribute to safe(r) and more inclusive spaces to enjoy sports? These were the leading questions of the paper that we (GMD’ers Kay Mars and Lieke van der Veer) presented at the 2023 conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA). Our paper title was “Werq it out! On Queer-led policymaking for more inclusive and transformative spaces for sports and recreation.” The presentation was based on ongoing fieldwork conducted by Kay, who works with Queer gym instructors in Amsterdam.

The panel we presented – entitled: ‘Sport and Play in an Unwell World’ – was excellently put together by the panel organizers. It was great to connect with fellow anthropologists and sports scholars and to get inspired by each other’s work—juxtaposing cases from Senegal, Greece, Norway, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom. Gathering around the question of how playful sporting dispositions can reshape an unwell world characterized by continuous crises, all presenters were concerned about the reproduction of inequalities in sports and inquired how alternative sporting practices can fuel social change.

After four days of conferencing, it became once again clear how anthropological perspectives and approaches are extremely enriching for diversity policy research—as these perspectives and approaches prove well-suited to creatively rearrange dominant and normalized ways of thinking and doing in policy work.

Kay Mars, Ph.D. researcher
Lieke van der Veer, postdoctoral researcher

Project: Dilemmas of Doing Diversity: Diversity policies and practices in spaces of sports and recreation (2000-2020).