Teaching Abstracts: Leisure, Recreation, and Sports

Originally published in Section Culture: Newsletter of the ASA Culture Section. Fall 2018. Vol. 30 Issue 3.

“Leisure, Recreation, and Sports”

Professor: Jeff London
Undergraduate Course at
Hunter College, New York

The history of leisure, recreation and sports is intertwined with the attributes and defining values of our society. Leisure, once the region of the landed classes, has now become a pursuit that has risen to the forefront in our search for meaning. Recreation has shifted over the century to a further scripted, scheduled and predictable tone. Finally, sports have come to embody the nature of class capitals, the passion of regionalism, the shifting relations of gender and even subjects such as law, violence and the nature of truth. The objective of this course is to uncover how these trends have played out in the modern era and where we are going globally and locally in terms of these powerful sites of contested meaning in the 21st Century.  We map the coincidence of the rise in leisure culture with both the advent of the mail order magazine and the adoption of street lights in big cities. As we reached the American modern age, according to William Leach, technologies of desire supplanted landscapes of comfort. We also look at the intersectional intensities of class, race and gender on certain sports and the connoisseur cultures that define their distinctiveness. Finally, we move into the realm of Critical Theory and the categorical denigration of the imagination under mass culture. We then look at the development of newer forms of possibility, using Hall’s Reception theory and the use of leisure culture to turn the tables of power and take back consumer landscapes for those with contested identities.