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Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project




Sports-Sociological aspects, Field hockey for women, Field hockey for women-History, College sports for women-History, Sociology of sport, Women's athletics, Women in sport, Field hockey-Sociological aspects


The current Honors project, completed under the guidance of the Department of Sociology at Smith College, seeks to fill a gap in sociological and sports studies scholarship on field hockey, a physical culture whose sociohistorical trajectory in the United States has uniquely situated the sport as an exclusively female/feminine pursuit. This paper discusses the relationship between the establishment and maintenance of gendered spaces, such as women's athletics, and the ways in which female athletes in the U.S. reproduce and/or challenge the constraint of static physicality and dynamic motility experienced by women in Western society (Young, 1980). Given that few comprehensive accounts of field hockey have been published since the introduction of the sport at the turn of the 20th century, the following work strives to map the intricacies of the physical culture at the intersections of historical record, visual media representation, and subjective experience. Qualitative methodology was applied as a means of engaging and respecting the partial and political nature of semi-structured interviewing with current collegiate players and coaches (Bourdieu, 1999), critical discourse analysis (CDA) of images featured in a sample of the niche magazine publication FH Life (Markula and Silk, 2011), and the interpretative evaluation of such "situated knowledges" written into this thesis (Haraway, 1988). Multiple theoretical perspectives were employed for the purpose of analyzing how field hockey subjects negotiate the complex discursive constructions of athletics, gender, and embodiment circulating within field hockey culture. The influence of visual discourses of the body presented in FH Life were also explored as factors, additional to the subcultural norms and values of collegiate field hockey, that may inform the subjective, sensational experiences of the field hockey body. A Foucauldian analytics of disciplinary power/knowledge (Foucault, 1970/1977) was utilized to consider the external imposition and internalization of dominant discourses of gender, and when applicable race and class, as constitutive of field hockey embodiment. Elements of existential phenomenology further facilitated an analysis of the field hockey subject-body as experienced through the physical senses (Grosz, 1994; Olkowski, 2006). Finally, Young's (1980) feminist critique of Bourdieu's habitus-field complex in Throwing Like A Girl served as both the inspiration and theoretical crux of the current study, in accounting for the construction of sporting physicality, disposition and comportment within an athletic setting constituted by multiple discourses. This research illuminates the discursive complexities of field hockey culture, where the visual representations and embodied subjectivities of field hockey subjects indicate both reproduction of and resistance to dominant notions of femininity. According to the data presented here, field hockey exists as an athletic space that encourages female athletes to develop strength, dynamic power, intelligence and a sense of collaborative efficacy that challenges the historical limitations of women's collective resistance to patriarchal dominance. However, contemporary field hockey subjects are also actively marginalized within athletic spaces, given the female demographic of field hockey culture. In addition, the most prominent source of legitimacy for field hockey subjects has been the recent speed-up of the game due to the move to synthetic turf, which has also problematically increased the docility and decreased the accessibility of field hockey embodiment. Overall, this project presents a perspective on how field hockey as a discursive field dictates field hockey embodiment as ascribing to and/or rejecting discourses of traditional femininity. 3




117 p. : col. ill. Honors project-Smith College, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 112-117)