Highland games

Authored by: James Bowness , Aaron Zipp

Routledge Handbook of Global Sport

Print publication date:  January  2020
Online publication date:  January  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138887237
eBook ISBN: 9781315714264
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the history of the Highland games. With suggested origins in 11th-century Scotland, we chart the development of the games up to its contemporary context. Largely the result of a reflexive Scottish diaspora, the games have extended away from Scotland, becoming a global sporting phenomenon. We detail the similarities and differences that a globalising of the games has created. We will also explore recent changes to who participates in the Highland games and how the event has adapted to wider social changes. Women and older adults will be used to showcase the liberalisation of the games in recent times. We also examine why people take part in the sport. Many athletes are aware of their heritage and appropriate the games as a space to perform social, cultural and national identities. Yet many of its participants do not compete to reproduce cultural traditions. Alongside a variety of motivations, the sporting careers of those involved are non-linear, representing a spectrum of social trajectories into the sport. The chapter concludes by summarising the history of the games, its global development and its adaptations to 21st-century social life in a range of Western nations.

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