What makes good sport history? Reflections on the crisis of legitimation and the politics of knowledge construction

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Epistemological polemics surround the objectives of sport history, the role of theory, styles of representation and the interpretation of 'facts'. Numerous commentators have reported that these debates have intensified since sport history's belated interest in what has been termed the cultural, linguistic or narrative turns. Although clear distinctions exist between these various 'turns' they have all occurred in relation to the prime challenge of postmodernism: which in relation to history accepts 'that it is impossible to penetrate a somehow pure historical "reality" and/or "past"' and, therefore, sources of historical data cannot be treated as trustworthy indicators of an assumed social reality. Corresponding with these debates has been the recognition that sport historians judge the quality of research in diverse ways in relation to different research paradigms. Reconstructionists, for example, criticise constructionists for employing social theory, claiming that theory distorts the way empirical facts are understood. Conversely, deconstructionists criticise both reconstructionists and constructionists for making authoritative truth claims and promoting singular interpretations of history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-80
Number of pages10
JournalSporting Traditions
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes

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