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Pan-European Conference "Sport and Prison"

16-17 June 2014


French National Olympic and Sports Committee

Maison du sport Français
1 avenue de Pierre de Coubertin
75640 Paris cedex 13



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Theoretical framework ‘social inclusion’ (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

Social inclusion, sport and the prison - Theoretical framework Prisoners on the move.

Social inclusion refers to a variety of issues regarding poverty, social injustices and inequality, issues that would appear to be universal and prevalent in all societies (Bailey, 2008). The converse of social inclusion is social exclusion. Social exclusion can take different forms, such as lack of access to power, knowledge, services, facilities, choice and opportunity (Long et al., 2002). Other definitions draw much more attention to the processes of exclusion rather than only the result of exclusion. In line with this viewpoint, measures taken to reduce indicators of exclusion (i.e. in health, education, employment) will not necessary succeed in encouraging inclusion if these measures fail to tackle the processes of exclusion (Bailey, 2008).

In literature, different but often (partly) overlapping conceptualisations of social inclusion can be found. The conceptualisation of social inclusion by Engbersen and Gabriëls (1995) provides us with a frame to study social inclusion. These authors describe social inclusion as having a functional, an expressive and a moral dimension. The functional dimension refers to matching individuals to the institutional structures of society. How to make people’s actions attuned so that society can run smoothly? Often, studies about the contribution of leisure initiatives to social inclusion only consider this dimension. A quote from positive development researcher Reed Larson (2000) illustrates this stance: “Given the renewed ideology of enterprise capitalism […] the importance of initiative hardly needs selling. The economic, social and political order of our society presupposes an individual who is capable of autonomous action” (p. 171). However, Engbersen and Gabriëls (1995) indicated the relevance of taking into account an expressive and moral ‘objection’ to this stance. Their expressive dimension refers to the search of people to find value and recognition in social life and is reformulated by Bouverne-De Bie (2002) as the opportunities of people to participate in social structures in a way that makes it possible for them to tune reason, appreciation and acting and, in this, find social recognition and self-respect. The third dimension, the moral dimension, refers to the principles that should be agreed upon so that a fair redistribution of social resources could be effected.


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