Brian Wilson


Relevant Degree Programs


Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


So grateful for our #GreatSupervisor Dr. Brian Wilson @ubccss @UBCKin @UBCEduc who is not only an exemplary scholar but also a role model human with his thoughtful kindness, humility, and patience. You're pretty much the supervisor lottery jackpot -- thank you, everyday!

Sport, Environment, Peace, Media group, Socio-Cultural Kinesiology (2018)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
(Post)political power and international sport : examining the International Olympic Committee's journey to Permanent Observer status at the United Nations (2016)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations (UN) have had an ongoing relationship over the past 80 years that culminated in granting the IOC Permanent Observer status at the UN General Assembly in 2009. This is an honor usually reserved for quasi-states and inter-governmental organizations: very rarely do non-governmental organizations (NGO) obtain this position. This dissertation critically examined the links between the IOC and the UN in a bid to gain an understanding of how and why the IOC obtained this status at the UN. Four research questions guided this study: (i) How, and in what contexts, has the UN engaged with the IOC in the past; (ii) Why/how is the UN currently engaging with the IOC; (iii) How/Why did the IOC obtain Permanent Observer status at the UN General Assembly; and (iv) What are the potential implications of the partnership between the IOC and the UN? In my pursuit of these questions, I drew in particular from the work of Dorothy Smith and Michel Foucault to aid my underlying examination of how forms of knowledge are socially constructed in ways that privilege some groups over others. The work of these theorists supported my attempts to contribute especially to the emerging field of research focused on inequitable power relations within and around the Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) ‘movement’. My findings demonstrated that there were various factors at play that have influenced the relationship between these two organizations, including the neoliberalization of development, the global power of sport, and processes of legitimation for both the IOC and the UN.

View record

The will to overcome : experiments in mud running, modernism and more than human kinetics (2016)

Mud running is an expression of physical culture that champions the naturality of functional fitness, the primacy and playfulness of ‘premodern’ life, labour and leisure, and the capacity of all-comers to overcome mud-laden obstacle courses. The ambition of this dissertation is to bring posthumanist theory into contact with mud running and its humanistic ethic of ‘overcoming obstacles,’ and in doing so to extend knowledge of the prevailing history, theoretical premises and embodied experiences of physical culture. Emerging from an array of research practices, from fieldwork to textual analyses, each of my studies critically addresses the understandings of nature, body, self and society that prevail in mud running. In the first study, I pursue the ontological inheritance that makes it possible to invoke humankind as being outside of nature; at a critical distance from mud, dirt, and soil. This genealogical approach suggests mud running to be a recuperation of nineteenth century forms of physical culture which also encouraged getting somehow ‘back-to-nature,’ as well as identifying mud running and physical culture as expressions of their modernist, colonial heritage. The second study recasts the ‘camaraderie’ for which mud running is renowned as an outcome of material, corporeal and symbolic enactments in which a whole host of actors, human and otherwise, make dramatic and subtle contributions. Contra the modernist notion of humans overcoming natural or technological obstacles, this analysis recasts the conventional hero figure, the super-human athlete, to afford due attention to the often unsung ensemble of intra- and supra-human materialities with which these athletes share an ecology. The third study draws from affect theory to evoke mud running as a sensoria in which runners are not simply overcoming obstacles, but are themselves overcome by affective registers and responses. I describe how atavistic nostalgia, military-hero mimesis, as well as compassion and inspiration emerge from encounters with obstacle courses. At stake in these studies are not only questions surrounding the remarkable rise of events such as Tough Mudder and Spartan Race in recent years or their physical cultural heritage, but their shared claims as to what it means, and what it takes to be human.

View record

Amusing ourselves to life : new media and the politics of interactivity (2011)

This dissertation explores the emergence of health promotion tools in the form of consumer technologies once made exclusively for entertainment and/or communication. Though media consumption has historically been deemed a sedentary pastime, video games, mobile phones, and other devices have recently been made for the explicit purpose of prompting physical and cognitive exercise. Despite the growing popularity of what I call ‘Interactive Health Commodities’ like the Nintendo Wii, however, there remains a conspicuous absence of sociological research on: a) the methods by which these products purportedly ameliorate health and fitness; b) the subjectivities that are said to arise from their use; and c) the marketing strategies used to appeal to different consumer demographics. To address these issues, this research adopts a ‘contextual cultural studies’ approach, which is to say it is concerned with the operation of new technologies in relation to broader social, economic, and political circumstances. It specifically involves three inter-related case studies, each of which examines a particular commodity-form through an analysis of online marketing documents. The first case study focuses on an interview series distributed by Nintendo on the development of the popular Wii and Wii Fit video games. Drawing from Latour (1999), it considers how these technologies were designed to connect with human users, and how this concomitantly enables ‘governmental’ (Foucault, 1997) and ‘post-disciplinary’ (Rabinow, 1996) forms of control. The second case study centres on the portrayal of ‘brain games’ as tools for mitigating ageing-related risks. It investigates how, by ‘screening and intervening’ in cognitive health (Rose, 2008), these technologies imagine ageing in both positive and problematic ways. Finally, the third case study features content and textual analyses of product descriptions for a broad selection of smartphone health and fitness ‘apps’. These mobile devices are studied for their novel means of transmitting information and initiating surveillance. Taken together, the case studies reveal how, in one sense, Interactive Health Commodities are enabling, as they encourage exercise from a range of consumer demographics. These technologies are at once problematic, however, in that they tend to promote narrow health and fitness ideals, while also tying health inextricably to consumerism.

View record

Governing Risk, Exercising Caution: Western Medical Knowledge, Physical Activity and Pregnancy (2009)

No abstract available.

Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
Behind the scenes of sport for development : perspectives of executives of a multinational sport organization (2015)

Currently, international cricket organizations have mandates to increase cricket participation globally by 1.5 million people. To do this, these organizations are sponsoring cricket-focused international development programs across the globe. This study was inspired by concerns from scholars such as Darnell (2012) about potentially negative outcomes of ‘sport for development and peace’ (SDP) work for targeted populations – and a recognition that little is known about how decisions are made by executives of international sport federations to pursue SDP initiatives. This study explores the international development work of the globally-prominent International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), and is guided by the following research questions: 1) How have decisions been made by high-level executives of global cricket organizations about engaging in development- related work and how are these decisions explained?; 2) How do key decision-makers understand the notion of development and what are their perceptions of development-related issues?; 3) How are development-related goals portrayed to stakeholders and how do these goals align with broader organizational goals?; and 4) What are the benefits of and problems with cricket-related development work as revealed through discussions with key decision-makers? This study is informed by literature on developmentalism, SDP, cricket and globalization, and urban (re)development. Theoretically, postcolonialism is featured because this perspective is concerned with the politics, cultures, and economies of societies living with legacies of colonialism; ongoing impacts of neoliberal forms of development in these societies and; the lived experiences of individuals in contexts where postcolonial forces are especially intense (McEwan, 2009). Nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with executives in ICC and MCC. The results illustrate that: (a) a select group of executives in ICC and MCC make decisions hierarchically, and that decisions reflect organizational mandates; (b), decision- makers tend to be dismissive of critiques of SDP, with notable exceptions; and (c) development-related programs are portrayed differently to different audiences. This study concluded with commentary on the importance of interviewing a range of individuals working in SDP, the sometimes contradictory ways that cricket continues to be implicated in postcolonial relationships, and roles of reflexive decision-makers working in organizations governed by neoliberal policies.

View record

‘Nice Korea, Naughty Korea’ : media framings of North Korea and the inter-Korean relationship in the London 2012 Olympic Games (2014)

In this study, I analyze mainstream news-media framings of North Korea and the inter-Korean relationship in the London 2012 Olympic Games. I explore the role that media plays in promoting particular understandings of North and South Korean nations and relationships. My research was guided by the following questions: 1) How did mainstream news-media in South Korea and other national contexts frame the relationship between North Korea and South Korea in the London 2012 Games?; 2) How was North Korea’s involvement in the Games understood and portrayed within different news-media?; 3) To what extent were themes pertaining to the unity of and/or divisions between North and South Korea evident in the coverage?; 4) What differences were there, if any, between the South Korean coverage of these topics and other international news-media coverage?; and 5) What might these differences imply about subjectivity in decision-making processes in mainstream news-media, and/or about how journalists might be implicated in the promotion of stereotypes and/or xenophobia? This study draws on existing research on news-media coverage of conflict, sport, and nationalism with particular attention to the interrelated concepts of ideology, hegemony, and Orientalism (Said, 2003). Live-televised commentary and newspaper articles from South Korea and other English-speaking nations were collected and analyzed using Fairclough’s (1995) Critical Discourse Analysis to examine how language operates in framing events and topics in a manner that may make some points or perspectives more visible than others. The results illustrate that South Korean and international media covered North Korea’s involvement and the inter-Korean relationship during the Games differently. Namely, international media representations of North Korean performance were at times derogatory or dismissive, and included more discussions of the North Korean government and its associated conflicts and issues (as compared to South Korean coverage). As well, emphasis on division was found more often in international coverage when covering the inter-Korean relationship. The study concluded with commentary on the potential role of sport media producers in peace promotion and in the perpetuation of cultural violence, the potential impacts of the studied portrayals on audiences, and possibilities for developing more critically-informed approaches to creating media messages.

View record

Older adults' experiences of an age-segmented exercise program (2010)

This study examined the experiences of older adults within an age-segmented fitness program. The research was guided by the following questions: (1) What are the experiences of group members of a program designed for older adults?; and (2) How are members’ experiences related to their social position? Current research has demonstrated that the physical activity and exercise levels of older adults progressively decrease with age. To date, studies have shown that older adults who exercise do so not only for health, but also personal and social reasons. In addition, gender greatly influences whether or not an older adult is likely to exercise, and what meanings he or she will attribute to the practice. Building on the extant research, this study explored the meanings that older men and women attributed to exercise and investigated how older adults constructed their social identities in relation to their aging bodies and within the context of an exercise program. The study utilized data from in-depth qualitative interviews and focused observations with six male and six female members of a fitness program for older adults. The average age of the men in the sample was 73, while the average age of the women was 67. The majority of the men and women were well-educated, married, able-bodied, and self-identified as heterosexual. Each of the men and women were interviewed twice for a total of 20.5 interview hours. In addition, each member was observed an average of two times, for a total of 12 observation hours. The data were analyzed using Strauss and Corbin’s (1998) concepts of open and axial coding.My findings revealed that membership at the program reinforced age and gender relations through the use of the body as a symbol of self-expression (Biggs, 1997), which prescribed manhood and womanhood in opposition to each other, and where fit aging was defined in opposition to ageist stereotypes of disease and decline. The meanings that older men and women attributed to exercise were framed by their gender, their socialization experiences, and their attitudes about exercise and their aging bodies. This research found that older men and women negotiated their identities as individuals who were fit rather than old by contrasting their experiences with others who were not aging as successfully, and by conforming to ageist discourses privileging youth and health. My study contributes to the literature on exercise and ageism by revealing how some older adults negotiated meaning and identity in the context of socially constructed discourses around gender, fitness, and the aging body.

View record


Membership Status

Member of G+PS

Program Affiliations



If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.