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date: 25 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter surveys scholarly writing about the intersection of religion and sport in the United States and Britain. It reviews the dominant historiography of works on religion and athletics, arguing that historians have focused primarily on clergy within Protestant traditions and the question of whether specific sports were considered licit or illicit in different places and times. This perspective occludes consideration of Catholic and other religions, the historical importance of bloodsport, and the informal nature of the interrelationship of religion and sport in daily life. The chapter also examines approaches to sport in scholarship from religious studies, highlighting the ways that scholars of religion have imagined sport as a form of religion (or “natural religion,” civil religion), often taking the perspective of the spectator and fan. The chapter concludes by exploring newer modes of analysis that explore the body as a site where religion and sport intersect.

Keywords: sport, religion, football, embodiment, muscular Christianity, religious studies, history, civil religion, athletics, fan

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