- Editor's Note
Sports is America's most "popular" culture, with an enormous commercial investment. The COVID-19 pandemic threw a blunt reminder that the nation's—and the world's—political economy cannot survive without collegiate tournaments, national championships, and international games, which forged ahead amid surreal circumstances. The hopelessly capitalist sports culture, accompanied by the objectification, regulation, surveillance, and valuation of the body witnessed in no other field, shapes the discourse and experience of the racialized, gendered, sexualized bodies for all involved. Sports has been a powerful instrument of nation building, colonialism, occupation, and empire as well as of assertion of sovereignty, autonomy, and pleasure.
These intersecting forces of sports culture make it a prime subject for American studies, and many scholars have long undertaken critical studies of sports. That research is now flourishing, and few scholars of sports need to worry about their subject not being taken seriously as they once did, at least in American studies. Yet such scholarship often sits in separate disciplines and fields, such as sociology, history, gender and sexuality studies, and media studies. Furthermore, while scholars of sports routinely use critical tools central to American studies today, the reverse has not necessarily been the case: Joseph Darda and Amira Rose Davis, the editors of this special issue, incisively point out "the absence of sports from the study of American empire" in their introduction. With "The Body Issue: Sports and the Politics of Embodiment," Darda and Davis bring these conversations together to showcase what "the body issue" is today and what is at stake. While they are well cognizant of the historiography of earlier scholarship in which certain sports such as cricket, baseball, and football dominated as objects of study, the guest editors' framing of the issue and the contributors' inquiries move beyond existing scholarship, not only in terms of the specific sports but also in methodological tools and approaches at the forefront of American studies, e.g., Black studies, critical refugee studies, digital media studies, disability studies, queer and trans studies, and surveillance studies. The essays themselves embody the beauty and vigor of the sports culture they critically examine. Together they convincingly illustrate that, in the guest editors' words, "Sports are fundamental to how we know our bodies and, therefore, ourselves and the world through which we move."
Darda and Davis have been exceptional in their professionalism throughout the editorial process, clearing every hurdle, landing every jump, and reaching [End Page v] the finish line with force and grace. On behalf of the Board of Managing Editors, I thank them for proposing and realizing this highly original and timely special issue. [End Page vi]