Dr. Van Sterkenburg and dr. Oonk receive REI grant

ERMeCC researcher Dr. Jacco van Sterkenburg (Media & Communication) and colleagues in the departments of History and Sociology have been awarded a prestigious Research Excellence Initiative (REI) grant for their research project 'Sport and National Identity: Changing Citizenship and the Global Battle for Talent'.

Global historian Gijsbert Oonk is the main applicant and project leader of the new research project on History, Sport and Nation. The interdisciplinary research project has received a grant of €417,000, which solidifies interdisciplinary collaboration between three departments: the Department of History and the Department of Media and Communicationas well as the Department of Sociology contribute to this new and innovative project.

Talented athletes are often foregrounded to promote the identity of the nation as part of national teams or the Olympic teams. These national sport representatives, however, may well have a migrant background. In some extreme cases, talented sportsmen and women are even granted "fast track" citizenship to increase a nation's chances of sportive success. Some countries will go through great lengths in order to maintain their reputation in the field of sports.

This is for instance evident in the case of Becky Hammon (photo), one of the most talented female basketball players in the USA. In March 2007, USA Basketball announced a pre-selection pool of 21 players for the 2008 USA Olympic team. Hammon's name was not on the list. In June 2007, Hammon signed a contract with CSKA, a club in Moscow. Eventually, in 2008, she was allowed to sign up for the Russian team in exchange for a multi-million dollar contract. Hammon had been granted Russian citizenship, despite the fact that she is not of Russian descent, she speaks no Russian and she is not a full-time resident. This was a profitable arrangement for both parties.

The project

Inspired by such cases, Gijsbert Oonk and Jacco van Sterkenburg and their colleagues will investigate how and why the number of migrant athletes changed over time. And how did this shape the debate on the 'nation' in the state?
The team of 'Sport and National Identity: Changing Citizenship and the Global Battle for Talent' consists of four researchers:

  • Dr. Gijsbert Oonk (Project leader - ESHCC, History)
  • Dr. Jacco van Sterkenburg (ESHCC, Media & Communication)
  • Prof. J.P.L. Burgers (Faculty of Social Sciences, Public Administration and Sociology, CIMIC)
  • Prof. G.B.M. Engbersen (Faculty of Social Sciences, Public Administration and Sociology, CIMIC)