Skip to main content


Jonathan Finn

Much of our knowledge of and experience with sport comes to us in mediated form. Newspapers, television broadcasts, film, sports magazines and other sports-related media present us with an unceasing flow of visual, textual and oral information related to sport. The ubiquity of cell phone cameras and user-driven devices like GPS watches and Go-Pro cameras enable athletes and fans alike to produce, disseminate and analyze their own sports content. The result is a seemingly limitless flow of sport media on everything from Tim-Bits hockey to the FIFA World Cup.

Within the aggregate field of mediated sport, this special issue of Amodern is concerned with the visual, and more specifically with the image. Sports and images intersect in myriad ways: images are used as pedagogical tools in sport as they are produced, circulated and read by coaches, athletes, trainers and sports medicine professionals; they are used as juridical tools that either replace or augment the human eye in sporting events; they serve commercial purposes as in television and print advertising; they are used as entertainment in television, film and on-line; and they form an essential part of visual culture as they are manifest in visual art, pop culture and other forms of visual culture production. Importantly, whether pedagogical, juridical, commercial, aesthetic or otherwise, images of sport are constituent components of culture: they are bound to cultural conceptions of class, race, nation and gender and are enmeshed in the fundamental economic and institutional infrastructures of society.


An Interview with Ludmilla Jordanova

Jonathan Finn, Ludmilla Jordanova

Ludmilla Jordanova is Professor of History and Visual Culture at Durham University. She is the author of numerous books and essays including The Look of the Past: Visual and Material Evidence in Historical Practice (Cambridge 2012), History in Practice (Bloomsbury 2000, 2006) and Sexual Visions: Images of Gender, Science and Medicine between the Eighteenth and Twentieth Centuries (University of Wisconsin 1989). She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Medicine. She was a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery in London from 2001-2009 and is currently a Trustee of the Science Museum Group. She is currently working on the 3rd edition of History in Practice.


The Making of Modern English Sport

Richard Gruneau

This essay examines the politics of representation in the processes whereby English sport became increasingly separated from older social logics to emerge as a distinctive cultural object and field of social practice. This involved the uses of new modes of representation in the promotion of emergent philosophical / political / moral discourses about the legitimate uses of time, space, money, competition and the body, many of which contributed after the 17th century to the imagination of England as a national and modern community. By the late nineteenth century, English middle class moral entrepreneurs were promoting a complex modernist vision of sport as an autonomous, universal and potentially civilizing form of cultural expression.


Robin Veder

The visual culture of early twentieth-century physical education drew upon art historical sources and conditioned the reception of modernism’s formalist aesthetics in the United States. Focusing on the 1913 Armory Show and the American Posture League, this essay explores the convergence of formalist and physiological modes of viewing in abstract structural imagery and theories of kinesthetic empathy.


Incorporating the "Other" within Canadian Hockey Films

Russell Field

While cultural critics have debated the ways in which narratives of hockey have been mobilized to stand in for Canadian-ness, filmmakers have been slower to take up this critique. This paper considers two recent feature films: Breakaway tells the story of a Sikh-Canadian determined to achieve hockey stardom in the face of ridicule within his own culture and racism from the hockey community, while Score: A Hockey Musical profiles a hockey prodigy forced to confront the game’s hyper-masculine expectations, using the camp tropes of musical cinema. While these films confront the hyper-masculinity and whiteness of hockey, the expansion of the boundaries of Canadian national identity their characters suggest is illusory.


Ways of Knowing Mixed Martial Arts and Visual Culture

Anu Vaittinen

This paper examines the intersection of ways of knowing Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) skill and visual culture with a specific focus on the ways in which MMA coaches and practitioners engage with the visual as a part of learning and coaching MMA: illustrated with examples from an ethnographic study of two MMA gyms. Existing research has only relatively recently begun to systematically explore the significance and connections between sport, education, new media technologies and visual culture. In this paper I argue that the practitioners and coaches engage with different aspects of visual culture through diverse channels as part of the process of developing practical understanding and skills required for MMA.


A Photographic Dialogue

Lianne McTavish, Patrick J. Reed

This photo-essay was produced as part of an autoethnographic research project humorously entitled Feminist Figure Girl: Look Hot While You Fight the Patriarchy. From 2010 to 2011, Lianne McTavish studied what it felt like to train for and participate in a figure/bodybuilding competition, working with designer and photographer Patrick J. Reed to represent the process. The resulting photographs highlight scenes of tedious labour, vulnerability, and imperfection, intervening in the standard portrayals of competitive bodybuilding as the masterful domination of flesh. The pictures furthermore reveal the collaborative nature of bodybuilding practices, a point reinforced by the dual voices in the accompanying captions.