Sport in a Populist Age: Physical Culture, Sportive Politics, and the Right-Wing 

Rather than an epochal break, the Trump presidency (2017-2021) represents an extension of a divisive period in American politics, itself located within the context of a global populist age. During this period, many nations have grappled with iterations of right-wing populist politics – including India, Hungary, England, France, Denmark, and Brazil, to name a few – and the associated divisions sewn under populist iterations of ‘unity.’ As noted by the preeminent populism scholar Cas Mudde, in an interview with The Atlantic, “populists are dividers, not uniters” (Friedman, 2017). Similarly, in varied contexts, sport has also been trumpeted as both a divider (e.g., the Black Lives Matter movement or the Old Firm derby) and unifier (e.g., national/home team victory celebrations or human-interest stories at the Olympics). For this reason, and given the popularity of sport, it is clear to see why populist political leaders have repeatedly looked to the sporting realm as a means of augmenting their popular appeal. Hence, the recent rise of populism within various national and international political settings has been accompanied by an instrumentalization of sport as a pawn in advancing the populistic politics of nation, ethnicity, gender, and identity. As such, the time is ripe for critically engaging and analysing the sport-populism nexus across varied national-political settings.

Given the significance of sport to the contemporary zeitgeist, it is surprising that the dynamic and generative interplay between sport and populism has, up to this juncture, received limited scholarly attention in sport history and sport studies, more generally. This workshop aims to bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to debate the histories, meanings, significance, and contexts of sport-articulated populism. In addressing an understudied but relevant topic within sport history, the aim is to bridge the fields of sport history, cultural studies, sociology, and political science, and, in doing so, provide a forum to further collaborative understanding, knowledge advancement, and research dissemination.

Submission: Abstracts (500 words, max.) should be sent to by end of day Friday, January 7, 2022. Notifications will be given by January 17. Final papers (5000-7000 words) will be due on April 8, 2022.

Workshop: Accepted papers will be reviewed by workshop attendees (those whose papers were accepted), and then discussed in depth during the workshop sessions scheduled for May 26 and 27, 2022. The final papers (revised according to the feedback received within the workshop sessions) will be published in a special issue of the Journal of Sport History, guest edited by Tom Fabian, David L. Andrews, and Bryan C. Clift. Based on the number of accepted papers, some conference expenses may be reimbursed from the workshop budget. Attendance at the subsequent NASSH conference (27-30 May 2022) is encouraged for all workshop participants.