Reinhard Haudenhuyse - Host

Sebastiaan De Geus - Host

Julia Villanueva O' Driscoll - Host

Gerrit Loots - Host

Purpose and objectives Martial arts sports, and in particular ‘harder’ contact sports, such as boxing, are becoming increasingly popular among the young superdiverse ‘urban dwellers’, including girls and young women. Since the London Olympics, women’s boxing has been an Olympic event, giving more prominence to the sport. However, substantial barriers (and inequalities) remain for girls and women who (want to) partake in boxing, and this both at a grassroot recreational and/or professional elite level (Tjonndal, 2017). These barriers reflect broader and ‘stubborn’ gendered processes of social in- and exclusion in sport in general. The main purpose of the visiting fellowship is to increase the academic and societal attention regarding processes of social in- and exclusion in relation to girls and young women practising boxing (recreational, amateur/professional) in urban superdiverse settings, and this through: i) conducting innovative and collaborative research in Brussels and other selected cities (e.g.; Gent, Genk) leading to a publication; ii) developing research proposal with VUB-based research groups (i.e. Sport & Society, Voicing Youth, Human Physiology Research Group); and iii) organizing a high-profile roundtable in close collaboration with practitioners, policymakers and academics By voicing and analysing girls and young women’s experiences and aspirations in terms of boxing (and active leisure participation in general), more insights can be generated into urban dynamics of social in- and exclusion in the broad domain of leisure. This research should lead to a publication. As an additional line of inquiry, I would like to explore with the VUB research groups the possibilities to develop a multi-disciplinary research proposal regarding protective headgear. This issue has become central since men are recently not allowed anymore to wear protective headgear during official boxing matches at the Olympic Games (or during qualifying matches), contrary to women who are obliged to wear such headgear. I would like to develop a research proposal that can approach this issue from a multi-disciplinary perspective (i.e. medical-physiological, sociological, pedagogical). For this I would also review the ‘evidence’ on protective headgear and how the evidence aligns with the official discourses of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in terms of ‘unequal’ headgear regulations for women and men. The supporting research groups – which are interdisciplinary in nature - can provide me a good platform to work on such a proposal. This issue has clear implications for society, for girls and young women (and men) both at a recreational and elite level. Apart from the research proposal, I would plan to organize - with the support of the research groups - a roundtable in Brussels with practitioner, policymakers, media makers and academics on the two topics: i) women boxing in the city and ii) protective headgear and their impact on grassroots boxing clubs. The main aim is to have an impact on policies in relation to urban leisure participation for girls and young women and instigate the debate about the protective headgear. The roundtable could also be used as a forum to show the visual narratives of the girls and young women that were involved in the research. Expertise Both as a researcher and elite athlete, I have acquired a unique expertise and position in relation the general themes of boxing, women and social exclusion. My own PhD research focuses on processes and discourses of in- and exclusion of elite women boxers. I am convinced that my expertise as a researcher and elite athlete are suitable to execute the activities as described in this fellowship proposal. My focus has been up until now primarily on elite sports. This fellowship would provide a great opportunity to study processes and discourses of social in- and exclusion in urban grassroots settings. Rachael Fox (2013) has argued that participatory and collaborative research needs to be fun (rarely considered in academic research), informal (i.e. drawing on everyday ways of acting) and clearly focused on issues that are directly relevant to young people. Since I am a boxer (and coach) myself, I can provide research contexts (‘boxing clinics’) which are fun and relevant for girls and young women. These will provide rich and motivating contexts for girls and young women to engage with visual and art-based research methods (e.g., collage, graffiti, photography and digital filmmaking) and the creation of expressive self-portraits. Academic & societal significance Since the introduction of boxing for women in the Olympic Games, the sport has gained more prominence. This also means that gendered processes of social in- and exclusion have become more visible (for example, dressing requirements, protective headgear). Processes that should be scrutinized by empirical research, to expose and understand mechanisms of in- and exclusion better. At the same time, large groups of girls and young women (and men!) participate on a weekly basis in their boxing club. However, Spaaij, Magee & Jones (2014) argued that it may be possible to participate in sport (e.g., boxing) and therefore appear included, but still experience feelings of isolation and exclusion that emanate from the environment or dominant discourses. During my research fellowship, I would like to focus on the feelings of isolation and exclusion among girls and young women and see how they align with dominant discourses. Additionally, the topic of the protective headgear has significant implications for young people ‘in the ring’, and the coaches that instruct them. Up until now, headgear is worn for medical reasons, namely to avoid brain injury/damage, also during sparring and official matches. However, if the ‘endgame’ (i.e., boxing match at the Olympic Games) does not require protective headgear, coaches in grassroots urban boxing clubs are less likely to impose them on their young athletes when they enter the ring (of which many of them will never become elite professional boxers). At the same time, the implications and consequences for young women being obligated to wear protective headgear – in contrast to their male counterparts- also needs to assessed from a sociological and feminist perspective.
1 Sep 201830 Nov 2018

Hosting an academic visitor

NameAnne Tjonndal
Visitor degreePhD
External organisations
Nord Universitet

ID: 35077369