Dr Benjamin Hildred: ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow

In Fellows by General Account

NINE DTP Postdoctoral Fellow: 2023-24

I did my undergraduate degree in Social Anthropology at St Andrews (2010-2014), before coming to Durham to complete a PhD in Anthropology (2017-2022). I am currently an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship in Anthropology at Durham from 2023-24.

Broadly speaking, I interrogate the idea that sport can be deployed for social good. Previously, I looked at the supposed link between cricket and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. In my ethnographic research, I covered a wide spectrum of the cricket community in Colombo, thinking about cricket within the wider context of Sport for Development and Peace. I found that sports promote certain narratives that encourage individual change, rather than structural change. While cricketers learn how to improve themselves and become ‘better people’, cricket rarely leads them to question or challenge their social constraints. Consequently, during my fellowship I am building on these findings by examining the relationship between sport and social change more widely.

The first major aim of this fellowship is to disseminate my findings about cricket and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, developing and improving their impacts at various scales. The second is to create a sub-field of anthropology surrounding sport and change, which would generate robust theory to better drive sport initiatives, and support my aims of establishing a career in academia. These aims will be achieved through four interlinked objectives:

  1. Generating impactful publications from my PhD material, including journal articles which build theory that contributes to a sub-field of anthropology in sport and social change.
  2. Communication and dissemination of findings, particularly in Sri Lanka, through a series of workshops that will impact SDP practitioners at local and national level.
  3. Establishing Research Networks & Partnerships in the UK and internationally, through an overseas institutional visit to Ottawa to work with a renowned expert in Sport for Reconciliation, and by expanding the International Network of Sport Anthropology to create my own network (see below).
  4. Formulating a grant proposal, which will extend this work on sport and change into the future by broadening my findings to include wider contexts and across various academic disciplines.

In 2020 I founded the International Network of Sport Anthropology, an ECR-focused group that currently has around 100 members around the world. INSA provides a space for scholars in the Anthropology of Sport and related sub-disciplines to discuss each other’s work, get feedback, and work on publications together. We meet fortnightly on Zoom, alternating between GMT and EST time zones. We are also hosting our inaugural conference April 18-19 2024 in Durham. If you are interested in joining us, please email [email protected] or visit our website www.sportanthro.org.