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Thesis investigates characteristics of society using sports activities as research tool

This press release is available in Spanish.

Society gives sense to sport, i.e. sports are a reflection of the traits of a society. This is the conclusion of Mr Asier Oiarbide, lecturer at the Faculty of Physical Activities Science and Sports, in his PhD thesis defended at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). His work is entitled Mendi-zeharkaldi, aerobic eta futbolaren etnomotrizitateak (the ethnomotricity of mountain trekking, aerobics and football). Ethnomotricity involves understanding each sporting activity as an integral part of the cultural context in which they are carried out in the case in hand, in Basque society. Mr Oiarbide has used this nexus between sport and its context to try to get to know Basque society more thoroughly, taking mountain trekking, aerobics and football as starting points.

In order to carry out his thesis, the researcher based his approach on the technique of participant observation. On the one hand, he undertook a description of the events that occur when practicing these three sports and, on the other, an analysis of their internal logic (where and how they are played, rules, etc.) and their external one (social interpretation of the sport, the symbolism involved, and so on).

Sport for socialising

Mr Oiarbide observed that characteristics of Basque society emerge from the three sports analysed. Thus, sports are not just practised and that is the end of it they are also cultural constructions or expressions. Given this, the author of the thesis approached the topic from another perspective: he states that sport functions so that the public appropriate the mentality of society or, in other words, sport is an important tool for enabling the process of socialisation. In fact, the sports' system is integrated into society. In this way, even when a person about to practise a sport has to answer questions merely related to the internal logic of the game (where, how, with whom, and so on), these are answered within the context of the society. And each society gives concrete traits or characteristics to the role of the sportsperson.

Mr Oiarbide has, in fact, highlighted the fact that this social role can correspond to the performance sportsperson, or to the leisure sportsperson, depending on the sport. So footballers, for example, will appropriate the social role of performance, and will be competitive. Mountain trekkers and those practising aerobics, on the other hand, will appropriate the social role of leisure, aimed at entertainment and well-being. As the author reminds us, he has only studied three sports in his thesis, and it would be necessary to observe more sports to complete the research.


Contact: Amaia Portugal
Elhuyar Fundazioa

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