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Conference to explore links between sports, democracy

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
(217) 333-2177;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A conference exploring the links between sports and democracy in America will be held Feb. 28 to March 2 (Friday through Sunday) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

It is the inaugural event of the university’s new Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society and is free and open to the public.

Scholars from across the United States will examine a wide variety of topics, including "Tiger Woods at the Center of History," "Arthur Ashe and the Burden of Race," "Michael Chang and the Model Minority Myth" and "Making Sport of Tonya."

Grant Farred, a professor of literature at Duke University, will give the first keynote talk on "Sport Isn’t Everyday: Sport as the Ambivalent Language of Democracy." Henry Yu, a professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, will give the second keynote talk, on Woods.
Sessions will be held in the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana, or in 213 Gregory Hall, 810 S. Wright St., Urbana.

According to the conference organizers, Adrian Burgos, history, and C.L. Cole, women's studies and
kinesiology, "Sport is variously construed as individual or national, local or global, racialized or democratic, uplifting or exploitative, unifying or fragmenting, inclusive or exclusive, profound or frivolous, natural or high-tech, consumer-driven or pure, regulated or free, and political or transcendent."

From soccer moms to "sport rage," AI to A-Rod, wanting to "be like Mike" to "I’m Tiger Woods," popular sporting images infiltrate everyday life, the organizers say. This conference draws upon voices from many disciplines to "mine the many possibilities sport offers to expand our definitions of racism, nationalism, democracy and the market."

"From scholars who trace the intricate interdependencies of race, identity, nation and sport, to those who use the theoretical constructs of globalism, citizenship and power to problematize the category of sport, the conference should give rise to new, thoughtful and creative conversations about the popular experiences of sport in multiracial America."

The center was approved by the Illinois Board of Education in July 2002. Its interim directors are Rosalinda Barrera, professor of curriculum and instruction, and David Roediger, the Kendrick C. Babcock professor of history.

The center is a component of a broader campus diversity initiative. Primarily structured as a policy/research/public education unit, the center is designed to serve as a catalyst for vigorous scholarly and public debate on the multiple racial contexts of democracy. Its overall mission calls for preparing graduate and undergraduate students and the wider public for civic engagement and participation in a racially and ethnically diverse society.

A complete schedule of the conference is posted on the center Web site. For more details and information, contact Aprel Orwick at or (217) 244-0188.