An agential realist reimagining of the concepts of “positive”, “youth”, “development”, and “sport”


Contemporary approaches to researching positive youth development through sport confine inquiry to normative and individualistic forms of development focused on teaching youth how to become economically productive citizens in tightly delimited social orders. The aim of the presentation will be to expose how humanist conventions narrowly circumscribe our thinking and how alternative disruptive ideas are needed to reimagine the concepts of “positive”, “youth”, “development”, and “sport”. To undertake this conceptual reimagining, an agential realist ontology and a diffractive methodology are deployed (Barad, 2007). Agential realism is a material and relational ontology problematizing anthropocentric and binarized categorizations of the world while diffraction serves as a conceptual tool to read and reveal the doings of phenomena in their intra-activity. Key questions to be explored during the presentation include: (a) How can the positive/negative binary be reimagined past its dualistic trappings?; (b) Does “youth/hood” have intrinsic value and can it be viewed as more than just a life stage toward becoming a “fully mature” and “emancipated” adult?; (c) What is “development” in a world where past, present, and future are always already threaded through one another?, and (d) What can organized youth “sport” become when reimagined as something other than a competitive, adult-led, and commodified practice bounded in strict spacetime delineations? Moving forward, if sport is to continue to be ethically defensible as a cherished social practice, alternative ontological passageways must be opened to expand researchers’ horizons, enabling us to inquire in ways that heighten the contributions of sport to development.