Research relating to sport for reconciliation purposes has largely been framed as part of “sport for development” (SFD) or “sport for development and peace” (SDP).
Within research on sport and reconciliation, the notion of reconciliation is often undefined, or narrowly conceptualized as bringing people together.
A potential reason for narrow understandings of reconciliation is that the bulk of research relating to sport and reconciliation is primarily rooted in theories developed from peace studies that focus on conflict resolution and peacebuilding in contexts where conflict is ongoing or recently ended.
Reconciliation is therefore primarily understood not as an ongoing process but rather as something to achieve within broader attempts at peace-building in post-conflict settings.
The focus on post-conflict settings and the lack of understanding of reconciliation as an ongoing process in previous research results in tensions when trying to apply notions of reconciliation to SFD/SDP with Indigenous peoples in settler colonial states.
Based on a review of the critical scholarship on SFD/SDP, settler colonialism, and reconciliation, Shawn D. Forde, Audrey R. Giles, Jessica Nachman, Tom Fabian, Alexandra Giancarlo, Lyndsay M. Hayhurst, Steven Rynne and Daniel A. Henhawk - had in a report published by Journal of Sport for Development - proposed an understanding of sport for reconciliation (SFR) that accounts for settler colonialism and foregrounds Indigenous self-determination.
As explained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.
Importantly, foregrounding self-determination within understandings of SFR acknowledges the ambivalent relationship that Indigenous peoples have with processes of state-led reconciliation.
It is believed that this conceptualization of SFR allows for critical engagements with how sport has been and continues to be understood and mobilized within Indigenous communities for truth-telling, relationship building, cultural resurgence, and expressions of sovereignty.
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