Center for Interdisziplinary Research

Intercorporeality in Sports

Date: September 10 - 11, 2013

Convenors: Christian Meyer (Bielefeld, GER) und Ulrich K. v. Wedelstaedt (Bielefeld, GER)

Despite an increasing interest of the social sciences in human bodies as they are engaged in joint activities, in-depth analyses addressing sporting bodies in interaction largely remain a desideratum. Furthermore, a theoretical embedding of social studies that are interested in the human body in interaction within a broader explanatory framework is still missing. This appears even more important in the light of newer theoretical and empirical developments. To discuss these questions and fill these voids, the conference 'Intercorporeality in Sports' has brought together researchers from different disciplines that focus their research on the issue of sporting bodies. Sixteen scholars from seven countries presented their studies during the two-day conference at the ZiF.
The different papers presented delivered insights into coordinated bodily skills in a variety of different sports. John Hockey (University of Gloucestershire) showed how distance runners coordinate their actions by being sensitive to physical signs of their running partners such as the sound of the footfall. K. Neil Jenkings (Newcastle University) exposed his research on the communicative and sensory practices of rock climbers and illustrated how they even intercorporeally adjust to the rock. The practices of extreme skiers needed to accomplish path finding under most difficult conditions were illuminated by Niklas Woermann (University of Southern Denmark). Elaine Vine (University of Wellington) showed how referees in rugby achieve rule-compliance of players on the thin line between the physical violence genuine to the game and brawls.
Two papers presented neurophysiological perspectives on the subject. Gerd Schmitz (University of Hannover) looked into the influence of auditory signals upon the participants' abilities to coordinate their actions and upon the states of their motivation. Cosimo Urgesi (University of Udine) focused on the abilities of athletes to anticipate movements of objects or actions of their opponents. He showed how not only perception is in use when athletes watch other athletes play but also how motor capacities and even muscles are activated. In a session on intercorporeal choreographies, Thomas Alkemeyer and Kristina Brümmer (University of Oldenburg) demonstrated that trust serves as key feature for teambuilding and how this is achieved in gymnastics. Christian Meyer and Ulrich v. Wedelstaedt (Bielefeld University) identified kinesthetic gestalts in Handball and Boxing and thereby detected common features of joint movement in sports.
In the final session, three papers focused on the transfer of knowledge in sports. The embodied nature of this knowledge renders this process particularly challenging for those who are involved. Larissa Schindler (Mainz University) discussed these challenges drawing on the example of martial arts, Ajit Singh (Bielefeld University) analysed trampoline jumping, and Sophie Merit Müller (Mainz University) examined ballet dancing.
Jörg Bergmann (Bielefeld University), Stefan Hirschauer (Mainz University), and Jürgen Streeck (University of Texas at Austin) acted as discussants throughout the conference and provided important contributions to the individual talks and in general.
However, interaction in sports is not only distinguished from other fields by the special role that the body plays, but also by conditions for communication that are far from ideal. Sport offers a particularly rich (and relatively well accessible) field for social research on questions about the interactive coordination of actions under conditions of mental stress, physical strain, environmental noise, pressure for action and high risk. As became clear in the course of the conference, sports is a promising field for the study of the social and cultural properties of bodily practice in general and is able to provide insight into broader issues of the coordinated coexistence of social bodies in the material world that surrounds them.


Thomas Alkemeyer (Oldenburg, GER), Jörg Bergmann (Bielefeld, GER), Kristina Brümmer (Oldenburg, GER), Clemens Eisenmann (Bielefeld, GER), Eva Fenn (Bielefeld, GER), Paul Goerigk (Bielefeld, GER), Stefan Hirschauer (Mainz, GER), John Hockey (Cheltenham, GBR), K. Neil Jenkings (Newcastle upon Tyne, GBR), Christian Meier zu Verl (Bielefeld, GER), Robert Mitchell (Oldenburg, GER), Marion Müller (Bielefeld, GER), Sophie Merit Müller (Tübingen, GER), Larissa Schindler (Mainz, GER), Gerd Schmitz (Hannover, GER), Ajit Singh (Bielefeld, GER), Jürgen Streeck (Austin, USA), Cosimo Urgesi (Udine, ITA), Elaine W. Vine (Wellington, NZL), Niklas Woermann (Odense, DEN)

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