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Religion, Sport, and Play Unit

Call for Proposals

Shadows, Sins and Profits: Complicating Sport and Play

The intersections of sport, play and religion often give rise to interpretations that romanticize the role, function, meaning and celebrity of particular events, participants, games, sport or play in general. A hearkening back to a time of innocence, a purity of experience, and even a seeking of perfection in body or performance conceals motivations, actions and consequences that cannot easily be reduced to a matter of ethics alone.

This call seeks proposals that address these dimensions of the shadow side, conceived broadly, of sport and play at all levels. Topics may include, but are not limited to:
• politicization of sport; commodification of human and animal bodies
• commercializing play; exoticization and mis-representation in team naming and iconography
• ritualizing violence; eugenics and the quest for perfection
• physical and emotional abuse in sports
• risking health for performance and profit
• fans behaving badly; economic injustice—the toll on athletes and communities, etc.

A diverse range of disciplinary perspectives, religious and spiritual traditions, methodologies, and critiques are encouraged.

Statement of Purpose

This Unit provides an opportunity for scholars to engage in emerging research at the intersection of religion and sport, games, and play. We are interested in examining these topics across broad geographical areas, religious traditions, and historical eras. We encourage critical reflection regarding relationships of religious institutions to sport, play, and games; theological and spiritual experiences of participants and spectators invested in these activities; and the cross-cultural applicability of the received categories.


  • Carmen Marie Nanko-Fernandez, Catholic Theological Union
    1/1/2017 - 12/31/2022
  • Jeffrey Scholes, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
    1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025

Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members