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Report from 18th ISHPES Congress

From April 3-6, 2017, the 18th ISHPES Congress was held in Alexandria, Egypt. After Doha, Qatar, this was the second time the annual conference was organized in the Middle East. Scholars from more than twenty countries came to Alexandria to present and discuss their research, establish and maintain networks and enjoy Egyptian culture and hospitality.

The congress started on Monday. While all the lectures were held at the Tolip Hotel, the opening ceremony took place in the modern Alexandria Library. Since the ISHPES Congress coincided with the 75th anniversary of Alexandria University, many people, especially those related to the Faculty of Physical Education for Girls, attended the ceremony.

Emanuel Hübner, former winner of the Gigliola Gori Junior Scholar Award (2014), delivered his keynote, titled ‘The Camel from Alexandria. Egyptian sources of ancient sport’. In his lecture, Emanuel focused on the rich sporting traditions within Egypt and drew attention to the significance of well-preserved ancient sources about sport in and outside Egypt, since they provide insight into past body cultures and competitions. The ceremony was closed with a dynamic dance show by students from the Faculty of Physical Education for Girls. Later on, the evening concluded with a nice welcome diner in the hotel.

From Tuesday to Thursday morning the parallel sessions were held. Speakers from a wide range of countries presented their research about an equally wide range of topics, such as women’s boxing in Zambia, the representation of Chinese swimmers in mass media, sport in Norway immediately after World War II, and the changing position of male elite soccer coaches in Sweden. It was very interesting and to observe that researchers with different (geographical and educational) backgrounds and agendas address sometimes similar research topics and deal with comparable research problems. Being able to discuss these with one another and gaining new insights is one of the great things of academia in general and conferences like this in particular.

In addition to the parallel sessions there were two plenary meetings. In the first, ISHPES Award Winner Malcolm MacLean, Reader in the Culture and History of Sport at the University of Gloucestershire in England, argued for decolonizing sports history and discussed several case studies on rugby at the edge of the British empire. What’s more, Malcolm examined these cases from an indigenous, rather than from a Eurocentric perspective, which was very thought-provoking. In the second plenary meeting Jerry Gems, Gertrud Pfister, Maha Ebeid, Bente Skogvang and Sahar El Hawary held a lively panel discussion about religion and gender inequality in sport, and in particular in football.

The organization of the congress made sure that everything went smooth throughout the week. They took care of transport to and from the airports, arranged several trips (e.g. to pubs, to the beautiful Alexandria Library) and hosted a great farewell dinner with delicious food and live music. A big shukran to the organization!

The closing ceremony, held on Thursday, ended with a personal highlight, since the Routledge Early Career Scholar Presentation Award was granted to both Zineb Belmaati Cherkaoui (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense) and myself, Aad Haverkamp (Radboud University Nijmegen), for which I am very grateful. With this ended, at least for me, an intellectually and socially very rich congress.

Aad Haverkamp
Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands