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Projects of Transcendence
Record Type: Review   ID: 226

The Anthropology of Sport: An Introduction

Blanchard, Kendall.

 We are reviewing this book because sports today, perhaps even more than in the past, provide many projects of transcendence (PT). Not only is each sport a PT, but often components of an individual sport can become PTs, such as developing the skill of putting, or making one’s own bow and arrows, or perfecting one’s skating skill in order to better play hockey. Anthropology as a social science is not averse to studies of meaning, and sometimes it even engages the subject of exceptional experience. And as the editor notes, sport "permeates every corner of our daily lives" (p. xxii). Many EHEs have occurred while engaging in sport, both competitive/professional and amateurish/recreational. The first chapter reviews the history of anthropology and sport and describes the new subdiscipline of the anthropology of sport. It is followed by a chapter on the meaning of sport that takes a cultural approach and relates sport to play, work, recreation, games, conflict, and ritual. A chapter on the anthropology of sport reviews the various types of sociological theory, the most relevant to exceptional experience being the interpretive models rather than the explanatory one, including symbolic anthropology, ethnoscience, and deconstruction. There is a chapter entitled "Prehistory and Early History of Sport" followed by two taking an evolutionary perspective of sport, studying it in societies classified according to their degree of evolutionary development beginning with the Australian aborigines through America in the late 20th century. The final chapter is on applications, which is composed largely of case studies. The author notes in the Epilogue that "it is now generally accepted that play is vital to human survival and a critical factor in the evolutionary process" (p. 264). He points out that anthropology provides an interesting perspective in dealing "with the sport dimension of one’s own life" (p. 266). Thus, persons who have had exceptional experiences while engaged in sport might enhance the meaning of their experience from parts of this book or a title noted in the lengthy bibliography. It’s a long shot—but then, so are EEs.
Publisher Information:Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1995. xix + 306p. Bibl: 268-291; 8 figs; Ind: 293-306; 20 photos; 5 tables.
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