Funded PhD Opportunity Identity and Sport in Divided/Dividing Societies

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism


Research examining the nexus of identity and sport is now well established, focusing variously on ethnicity, gender, national identity, interculturalism and so on. This work has highlighted the specificity of social contexts, in divided/dividing societies for instance, but also commonalities in identity dynamics across such varied contexts e.g. in nation state formation or in the expression of gendered identities in contact sports. This work has also identified identity formation/expression as a process, involving the mutual shaping of the personal and the social. In deeply divided/dividing societies in particular, the case has been made for the contribution of sport to peace building, good relations and the promotion of human rights. Yet, this remains a matter of debate: both in terms of claims about a so-called intrinsic value in sport and whether sport, national team sports especially, are a suitable medium for contact between culturally distinctive groups. This project permits the researcher the opportunity to unravel the hidden crevasses of ethno-national tensions in a divided/dividing society; to explore the impact of national sports representation on the identity politics of sportspeople (male/female or both), and; to consider the implications of this (e.g. policy, governance, team selection, coach education) for the future development of such sports, and societies.

Methods to be used: The strengths and interests of the particular doctoral candidate will inform the final decision on research design once final research objectives are agreed. It is envisaged that the research methods will be chosen for their relevance to the project and no method will be given any primacy per se over the objectives of the research. The candidate will refine detailed aspects of the methodology and analysis. Applicants should, in consultation with the supervisory team, propose a research design that enables them to explore the experiences of sportspeople who have represented/are representing ‘the nation’, the ways in which such experiences are shaped by the particular social context of identity politics, and the implications for future developments, sporting and otherwise in such contexts.

Objectives of the Research: The following are the general objectives of the proposed project:

*To explore the socio-historical development of identity politics in a deeply divided/dividing society/region/context;

*To understand the ways in which the development of national team sports have been shaped by such wider socio-historical, political and economic contexts e.g. how and why sports have developed in this manner, and how the process is contoured by identity politics;

*To examine the impact of this on sportspeople in terms of their motivation to become national team athletes, their experiences of such representation and the impact of this on identity (personal and social);

*To offer a greater insight into the consequences of this for understanding identity (broadly speaking) and sport, both in terms of sport policy but also good relations more generally.

Guiding References

Bairner, A. 2001. Sport, Nationalism and Globalization: European and North American Perspectives. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Bleakney, J. and Darby, P. 2017. ‘The pride of east Belfast: Glentoran Football Club and the (re)production of Ulster unionist identities in Northern Ireland’, International Review for the Sociology of Sport. Online first,

Elias, N. 2013. [1989] Studies on the Germans. Collected Works, Vol. 11. Dublin: UCD Press.

Liston, K. and Deighan, M. 2018. ‘Whose “Wee Country”? Identity politics and sport in Northern Ireland’, Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. Forthcoming,

Nic Craith, M. 2003. Culture and Identity Politics in Northern Ireland. London: PalgraveMacmillan.

Tuck, J. 2003. ‘Making sense of Emerald commotion: Rugby union, national identity and Ireland’, Identities. 10 (4): 495-515.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • Use of personal initiative as evidenced by record of work above that normally expected at career stage.


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 19 February 2018
Interview Date
March 2018

Contact Supervisor

Dr Katie Liston

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #237358 when applying for this PhD opportunity