Skins and sports

Call for papers

Relations between skin and sports, in the most general anthropological acceptance, cover at least two different levels that constitute the most important axes of this revisiting the article. However, it is not about a reduction in focal lengths, as many other approach angles can be suggested.

1 – Exposed athlete’s skins (humans or non humans)

The first level is related to physical and sporting practices, which, on the one hand, expose or even bare, partially or not, the practitioners. Due to the bodily movements required by sports practice, clothes are adapted and sometimes nudity or semi-nudity recommended, if not required (Gherchanoc, 2008; Andrieu et al., 2017). These sports bodies and skin are exposed, for example, during lessons, particularly in Physical and Sports Education (EPS). Indeed, if the bodies of the teacher and the pupils having been analysed for decades (Pujade-Renaud, 1983), the PE teachers bring their bodies, even their skin, into play even more through the image than they review (Cogérino and Mansey, 2010). In Physical Sports and Artistic Activities (PSAA), competitive or not, body marks with scars or hematomas then directly participate in this sporting integumentary visibility, and sometimes in the underlying values, claimed or not by the practitioners (Brian, Mutasim, 2001; Le Hénaff, Héas, 2006; St Clément, Héas, 2010). In doing so, the APSA directly impact the integumentary envelope by heating, abrasion, shock, prolonged contact with the support surfaces (ground, rock, water, snow, animal, machinery, etc.), and sometimes in a voluntary marking logic, whether the athlete is human or of another species (whether injuries related to the saddle, stirrups, etc., or the marking of horses, dromedaries or ostriches for example). These various contacts and actions modify the skins at on at least two levels. That of alterations in connection with markings, sometimes restraints, even blows; the level also links to the presence and sometimes the multiplication of bacteria, fungi, viruses, which constitute less visible and yet active players in whatever sporting or competitive environment. Sports spaces such as swimming pools or tatami mats for example, accessories such as gloves, boots, etc., can induce specific sports iatrogenies: warts, contact eczema, allergies, etc. (Castelain, Pecquet, 2009; Tennstedt, 2010; Bellay et al., 2013).
All analyses concerning these tegumentary modifications within the framework of the PSAA are welcome.

2 – Sportsman tools made of skin: from material to symbols

The analysis is not limited to the physiological or physicochemical aspects since the symbolic part of the skin and leathers is just as important, and often jointly. Indeed, living or dead skin changes over time and are worked on according to ancient, sometimes modernised processes (Wassouni, 2021). This work has repercussions, for example, on the leather of boxing gloves or footballs, which become supports for the mobilization of warriors, for example in a specific context such as a war (Mason, 2013). Both the gloves and the balls and in particular those who wield them thus signify a virile activity, in fine a trained resistance as during the First World War in the English battalions (Riedi, Mason, 2006).
Indeed, this second level of analysis concerns, more directly, sports tools and utensils. Non-human skins (most often) are then, or rather have been in the past widely used to make balls, gloves, helmets, saddles, etc. This past and sometimes the topicality of the use of animal compounds and in particular animal skin deserve to be questioned at a time when animalist arguments are developing and are widely publicised (Régnier, Héas, 2020), sometimes from the angle gender of practitioners (Tourre-Malen, 2006, 2019).
For decades now, leather substitutes have been used exclusively or in combination with animal skins in the manufacture of clothing and tools (Nakahara, Matsuda, 2020). What about these changes in subject matter on sports uses and on the social representations of physical and sports practices in the media, for athletes, etc.?

Stéphane HEAS et Patrice REGNIER, coordinators for this thematic opus


Deadline for submissions: February 10, 2024
Publication of the issue is scheduled for summer 2024

How to respond to the call

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