By: Letisha Engracia Cardoso Brown, M.A.
This summer, May – June 2016, I had the most amazing opportunity as a Teaching Assistant for the University of Texas at Austin in a course on Sport and English Society based in Leeds, England. During my amazing journey, I experienced sporting adventures in three cities—The 2012 Olympic Park in London, rugby and cricket matches in Leeds, as well as the National Cycling Center and Manchester United in Manchester; through it all, I also had the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the leading sport sociologists—Drs. Anne Flintoff, Jonathan Long, Max Farrar, Beccy Watson, Jonathan Dart, Stefan Lawrence, and the fearless leader of our summer course Ben Carrington.
This summer story began on the picturesque campus of Leeds Beckett University in Leeds, England with sixteen students, one professor and a teaching assistant (that’s me). Over the course of four weeks we covered topics of nation, class, gender and race all through the lens of English identity and sport. Each week we went on a sport’s related field trip, had guest lectures, and watched films—Chariots of Fire, Green Street Hooligans and Bend it Like Beckham, all with the intention of learning about Englishness, through the sports that the English play.
As a PhD. Candidate in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, my work focuses broadly on the intersection of race and gender. More specifically however, I study race through the lens of sport as well as social relationships and food. As a sports scholar, this trip broadened my understanding of the sociology of sport, while simultaneously giving me the opportunity to engage in sporting activities that I never dreamed of. We attended a rugby league match between the Leeds Rhinos (home team of our English adventure) and the Catalans Dragons (of France), as well as a cricket match between the Yorkshire Vikings and the Notts Outlaws—after receiving a cricket lesson from the amazingly talented Harwood Williams. We learned all the basics of cricket as a group, and I learned that though my batting skills are limited, I am a fantastic bowler (that is to say, pitcher).
In Manchester, we toured Manchester United and the National Cycling Center (NCC Velodrome)—where I learned that a career in cycling is not in my future—in London we toured the 2012 Olympic Park and went up in The Orbit. Our adventures challenged us all, students, professor and teaching assistant alike. The four weeks allowed us to think about the ways in which sport is embedded in identity and vice versa. Students discovered life lessons around issues of race and racism, sex, gender and sexuality, class and identity, and nation and identity. In four weeks, we covered and experienced more than some do over the span of a full semester. The hours were long, the work grueling, but I wouldn’t change a moment (well, maybe the moment I almost crashed my bike on the NCC velodrome, but nothing else)!
Letisha Engracia Cardoso Brown, M.A. is a PhD. Candidate at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Sociology. Her work focuses broadly on the intersection of race and gender through the lens of the sociology of sport, as well as social relationships and food. Her work has been published in the South African Review of Sociology.