Loughborough University
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That's what I am, I'm an England player: exploring the gendered, national and sporting identities of England's elite sportswomen

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posted on 2013-04-16, 09:33 authored by Alison K. Bowes
According to Robinson (2008), England exists more in imagination than it does anywhere else, except on the sports field. However, Englishness remains relatively unexplored in discussions of sporting nationalism. For so long, academics have focused on the ways in which male sport plays a key role in (re)producing national identities, with the contribution of women to the relationship between sport and national identity formation undeniably ignored. Based on interviews with 19 elite sportswomen from England s netball, football, rugby and cricket teams, this thesis examines the relationship between gendered, national and sporting identities, giving a voice to England s heroines of sport . These sports were chosen as the women had only represented England, rather than Great Britain, in international sport. Few research studies have adopted this approach of speaking to athletes about their national identities, although significantly, those that have were not concerned with women (see Tuck, 1999; Tuck and Maguire, 1999; McGee and Bairner 2011). The challenge was not only to integrate personal experiences into discussions of sport and national identity, but also to try to incorporate gender into these very discussions. The question here is whether women s sport has a place in the national imagination, and how do those very women who embody their nation on the field of play articulate their experiences. Central to this research is an understanding of the ways in which we perform aspects of our identity. Building on work by Butler (1990) and Edensor (2002), we can understand how international sport provides a site where multiple identities are performed. Findings suggest that performances of femininities are contextual, and that elite sport is an arena where displays of heteronormative femininity are inappropriate. In addition, sport serves to clarify imaginings of Englishness, where previously it may have been confused or conflated with conceptions of Britishness. What was clear throughout the research, however, was the performative nature of the participants identities, as well as the way in which their identities can be conceptualised as multiple and fluid, subject to change depending upon context and circumstance.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© Alison Kay Bowes

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en

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