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SUFRN: Just a big sexy joke? Seriousness in Women's Roller Derby, Dr Maddie...

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McCance Building, room MC319

16 Richmond Street

Glasgow

G1 1XQ

United Kingdom

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Dr Maddie Breeze (Chancellor's Fellow in the School of Education, University of Strathclyde) will be discussing her book Seriousness in Women's Roller Derby (Phillip Abrams Memorial Prize, 2016).

Departing from bodies of work on sport and gender, feminist sport sociology, and theories of institutionalization and professionalization, I explore how participants in women’s roller derby pursued ‘serious recognition’ for themselves and their sport. Roller derby is an emergent full contact team sport; self-organized on a not-for-profit, do-it-yourself model it developed as a women’s sport outside sports institutions and thus occupied an ambivalent and gendered position relative to a broader cultural field of sport, where women’s struggles for sporting legitimacy are well rehearsed in the literature. Existing research interprets roller derby as uniquely positioned, particularly conductive to gender subversion and to challenging the prevailing hegemonic masculinity of contact sport. Despite such distinctiveness, and skaters’ initially ambivalent relationship to ‘sport’, research participants increasingly claimed roller derby’s similarity to other sports, become concerned with its recognition as a ‘real, legitimate sport’ and orientated their practice towards getting taken seriously and being included in established sports institutions. The research developed a continuum of ‘insider’ ethnographic methods (including in-depth interviews, a collaborative film-making project, participant observation, auto-ethnography) embedded in five years of participation in one roller derby league of approximately 100 members. The paper responds to a broad question, ‘how is getting taken seriously negotiated in practice?’ and documents how skaters deliberately, collaboratively, and reflexively re-worked their representational and organizational practices so that roller derby became more recognizable as a ‘real, serious, legitimate, sport’. The analysis focuses on moments when participants’ claims for serious recognition refuse and rework the gendered terms of such a recognition, arguing that a sociological analysis of seriousness is crucial to understanding mid-levels of social action, between polarized extremes of voluntarism and determinism, the ambivalence of ‘being included’ in processes of institutionalization and professionalization, and gendered social change in sport.

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McCance Building, room MC319

16 Richmond Street

Glasgow

G1 1XQ

United Kingdom

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