Between the charybdis of homophobia and the scylla of xenophobia: Zenit, football fandom and the language of compromise
Michael Furman (Ohio State)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines how the administration of Zenit discursively navigates its position as an ostensibly egalitarian organization, while not estranging themselves from fan clubs mobilizing homophobic and xenophobic rhetoric and thereby threaten the image of tolerance that Zenit attempts to foster.
Paper long abstract:
The rise of radicalized football fandom in Russia has placed some professional football teams in the morally precarious position of wanting to support their fan-base (including their radical fans), while simultaneously projecting a benevolent image to their larger communities. In this paper I examine how the formal organization of Zenit (St. Petersburg's premier football club) navigates its relationship with decentralized sites of football fandom that espouse inflammatory rhetoric. In 2012, Landscrona (the largest fan club of Zenit) issued a manifesto specifying their stance on the permissible ethnicity and sexuality for the roster of Zenit. This manifesto issued a call to exclude those of the "sexual minority" (i.e. homosexuals) as well as those born outside of the northern and central areas of Russia (i.e. non-ethnic Russians). Rather than engaging in a direct dialogue with these fan clubs, Zenit discursively aligns itself with anti-racism and campaigns for tolerance, but does not directly engage with the fan clubs themselves. This positions Zenit as an egalitarian organization, but without critiquing the fan clubs espousing this rhetoric themselves. Drawing on interviews, fieldwork and analysis from official documents and utilizing methodology from Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough 1992) and Ethnography of Communication (Hymes 1971) this study unearths the precise linguistic and social strategies that Zenit utilizes in order to position themselves as an egalitarian organization vis-à-vis the St. Petersburg community, while maintaining a neutral stance against those mobilizing xenophobic and homophobic rhetoric.
Youth and social movements