Accepted Paper:

Celebrating charity through sport  


Jon Mitchell (Sussex University)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on city marathon events, this paper examines mass-participation sporting events as celebrations of charity, which link personal endeavour and realisation of the self with broader structures of morality and economy.

Paper long abstract:

UK mass-participation athletics events have expanded exponentially over the past 20 years. The London Marathon - now Flora London Marathon - for example has expanded from an initial field of 7,747 in 1981 to 46,500 in 2007. This expansion has gone hand in hand with an expansion of the charitable sector in general, and of charitable sporting activity in particular, to the extent that such events are now veritable carnivals of charity. This paper examines these celebrations of charity in the context of, on the one hand, the intensification of bodily projects in the articulation of the self in modern society, and on the other hand, the (re)moralising of the economy, work and leisure in the context of neoliberalism. In these contexts, participation can be thought of as a particular type of voluntary activity, geared towards cultivating both the self - physically and morally - and the other: the generalised 'other' of wider society, and the specific 'other' as recipient of charity. As such, it encompasses both larger and smaller goals, with immediate and subsequent, and expressive and instrumental consequences.

Panel W007
Staging sport and celebration: the power of play