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IUAES 2013: Evolving Humanity, Emerging Worlds. 5-10 August 2013.

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Evolving humanity, emerging worlds

Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013

(G24)

The anthropology of sport in a changing world

Location University Place 6.210
Date and Start Time 08 Aug, 2013 at 09:00

Convenors

George Poulton (Manchester University) email
Keir Martin (University of Oslo) email
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Short Abstract

This panel seeks papers which apply an anthropological analysis to the field of sport and in so doing shed critical light on issues of consumption, commercialisation and neo-liberalisation and their relationship to concerns around cultural identity and community.

Long Abstract

Sport is a near-ubiquitous feature of global societies yet Social Anthropology, in contrast to Sociology, has often seemed to be reticent to take sports as a serious area for analysis. This is particularly remiss given that many of the issues which dominate Anthropology are germane to the area of sport. In particular, sport offers a productive field for pursuing the Anthropological interest in the relation of consumption and commercialisation to issues of cultural identity and community. For example, sports mega-events, such as the Olympic games and the football world cup, have offered the possibility of mass-consumption on a global scale through television broadcasts while at the same time being met with protests claiming the commercial interests of such spectacles are riding roughshod over the wishes of local peoples. Meanwhile, the increased concern within Anthropology over the effects of neo-liberalisation and finacialisation, and the possibility of popular resistance to these economic modalities, has been mirrored within the sphere of sport. For instance, in recent years many football fan groups across the world have mobilised to protest against the increasingly commercialised and exclusionary form football clubs have taken. This panel seeks papers which utilise Social Anthropologies core modes of analysis of detailed ethnographic description and cross cultural comparison to shed light on sport and its relationship to the critical economic and political issues facing global societies.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

It's all gone quiet over…where? Football fans in virtual, transnational space.

Author: John McManus (University of Oxford)  email
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Short Abstract

My paper traces the contours of a transnational supporters group for the Turkish club side Besiktas. Through ethnographic fieldwork both online through social media and offline at matches, it investigates how technology is allowing for radically new forms of association, communication and belonging amongst fans.

Long Abstract

My paper proposes an anthropological approach to the question of how technology (specifically the internet) is allowing for new forms of association and communication based around sport. It takes as its subject fans for the Turkish football team Beşiktaş. Beşiktaş are one of the most widely supported clubs in Turkey but also have significant numbers of fans across diaspora Turkish communities in Europe. How are these individuals - many of whom do not have Turkish passports and have never been to a 'home' game - constructing their 'fanness'?

Based on ethnographic fieldwork, both with social media online and offline at European Cup matches, the paper teases out the issues present in the formation of the Beşiktaş footballing community. What happens when a fan identity and interaction that is generated online - through the social media of Twitter, Facebook pages and YouTube channels - is forced to become 'real' within the spectacle and ritual of a football match? Key questions include: what conflicts and contestations emerge when 'Turks' from a diverse array of nations, classes and diaspora communities come together in person to support a Turkish football club? How is social media shaping individual identity and the spectacle of mass sporting events? How are both fans and the club responding to the newfound realisation of the geographical diversity and global consumption patterns of the fan community? And finally, do we need to rethink the operation of some of sport's primary identifiers, namely gender-based association and embodiment, in an increasingly globalised virtual sphere?

Globalised sport and moral obligation

Author: Keir Martin (University of Oslo)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between football clubs and supporters as a contest over the limits of reciprocal obligation drawing on Mauss' analysis of the gift.

Long Abstract

Football as mass spectator sport has always been a commercial enterprise, yet the relationship between clubs and supporters is unlike those between other capitalist enterprises and their customers. Clubs form a considerable part of their supporters' cultural identity, and the emotion invested by supporters in their clubs creates, in the eyes of many, the implicit promise of mutual moral obligation that transcends a simple transactive relation. Yet there remains a tension between the commercial and the other cultural aspects of this relation. For long periods this tension may remain muted, but the emergence of international investors in the 2000s has brought these tensions once again to the fore. The high profile takeovers of Liverpool FC and Manchester United were fraught with tensions between owners and fans. Similar problems can be seen elsewhere. This paper explores the relationship between football clubs and supporters as a contest over the limits of reciprocal obligation drawing on Mauss' analysis of the gift.

Sport, Culture, and Anthropology

Author: Thomas Carter (University of Brighton)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper examines some of the ways in which an anthropology of sport can contribute to a greater understanding of sport by critiquing the dominant idea of a 'sport culture' pervasive throughout sport studies.

Long Abstract

This paper has two main points. The first addresses the contemporary approaches to sport outside of anthropology in which the premise for the study of sport is that there is an object of enquiry called 'sport culture'. The second is that contemporary approaches to sport are far too rooted in English-speaking, Protestant societies. An anthropology of sport can incisively critique these two weaknesses and provide a more pervasive, thorough, and insightful understanding of sport. I draw on my 3 years of fieldwork on Cuban sport conducted over the past seventeen years to demonstrate how an anthropological approach to sport unequivocally challenges the dominant understandings of sport found throughout sport studies. Cuban sport provides informative examples of how the sport may be the same but 'the way you play the game' differs from the presumed universal values of a 'sport culture'. By doing so I am arguing for a more anthropological and dynamic conception of culture that is informed by ethnographically based studies of any given sport wherever and whenever played in the world.

Gay sports under scrutiny: what anthropology can say?

Author: Wagner De Camargo (UFSCar)  email
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Short Abstract

The institutionalized models of LGBT sports, globally practiced and widely known, are the Gay Games and the Outgames. This research analyzes them and seeks to shed light on this sport and its relationships to the mainstream Olympic sports and the economic/political issues of the western nations

Long Abstract

It could be found in the world of sports uncountable expressions of groups and individuals who practice some sport activities. In the case of gays and lesbians there is no exception. The current models of LGBT sports are the Gay Games and Outgames. Gay Games was the first model, emerged in the 80's from the discourses on identities, and Outgames was recently born demanding revision in the power of these games, and proposing alternatives toward diversity and human rights of minorities. However such events reproduce the relation of consumption and commercialization interlinked to issues of cultural identity and community. Besides, they replicate hierarchies, logics of exclusion, and the standards of athletic performance of mainstream Olympic sports. Taking Social Anthropology core modes and ethnographic description, a multisited ethnography was developed in four sports tournaments. Thus some considerations can be summarized: those events are characterized as being "exclusively gay worlds" (a ghetto of gay male); they are destinations such as any others inside the international circuit of parties (like gay parades), and, besides, they reproduce the hierarchy of masculinities from the conventional world of sports. Having in mind these findings and based on the cultural comparison with the Olympics as the contemporary expression in sports, this research aims to rethink the LGBT sports - and, by extension, the conventional sports - through a distinct logic, which means not only criticize the institutional sports models available, as well as to challenge the sportive structure, thinking about a "distinct way" (less conventional) of doing sport

Football of the Blind: A Sport Between Inclusion, Leisure Time and Competitiveness

Author: Rolf Husmann (University of Göttingen)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper introduces "Football of the Blind" and analyses the social and sporting backgrounds of the players in the German "Blindenfussball-Bundesliga". While some practise it as a competitive sport, other blind footballers play it as a leisure actvity. On top of it, it also serves a function for the inclusion of handicapped into German society.

Long Abstract

"Football of the Blind" was introduced to Germany in 2005 and, although still largely unnoticed by the public, has since secured its safe place in the range of sporting activities in Germany. In 2008, the "Blindenfussball-Bundesliga" started with MTV Stuttgart as the most successful club. The national team coached by Uli Pfisterer competes on an international level and is among the four best European teams. Based on ethnographic research and documentary filmwork among most of the dozen German teams, this paper presents an overview of the activities in Germany and analyses the social, ethnic and sporting backgrounds of the majority of the active players in Germany. It presents this sporting practice as a mix of competitive sport, a leisure-time activity and successful inclusion of handicapped into mainstream society. Short film excerpts illustrate the skills, technics and tactics of this sport.

Playing (with) Loyalties: the UEFA EURO 2012 Critically Revisited

Authors: Alexandra Schwell (Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt/Celovec)  email
Nina Szogs (University of Vienna)  email
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Short Abstract

Drawing upon fieldwork in Austria, Poland and Germany during the EURO 2012, the paper scrutinizes the performativity of group affiliations in football fan identities. With regard to strategies of selfing and othering, it analyses how stereotypes are used in the creation of loyalties and denegation.

Long Abstract

For hundreds of millions of people football is an important part of their everyday lives and identities. The UEFA EURO is one the biggest football events in the world, attracting not only dedicated football lovers, but also so-called 'event fans'.

Public screenings of EURO matches in fan zones, pubs, and public places create specific spaces, liminal zones that suspend ordinary rules while setting up new ones. Football demands the spectator to admit to a team - most likely to the national team. Fans perform loyalty using shared symbols, like the display of national colours or chanting and singing national songs, and thereby fans originate group identity.

While traditional football research has already extensively elaborated on national fan loyalties, our paper will focus on the largely under-researched realm of shifting loyalties: In the case of a national team not participating or dropping out early, most spectators will choose another team to support, if only temporarily. This highly contextual identification process does not happen individually, but the creation and legitimation of loyalties and denegation is not only strongly informed by personal experiences, but moreover by historical and socio-cultural narratives and media representations, and thus by stereotypes and prejudices.

Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork in Austria, Poland and Germany in public places during the EURO 2012 the paper scrutinizes how fans use strategies of selfing and othering in creating loyalties. The key question lies in the tension between a playful performance of self and other and a transgression of mutually respected rules of the game.

The Breaking of a Bubble: State-controlled, commercialised football under Mubarak, and the challenge from Cairo's revolutionary Ultras

Author: Carl Rommel (Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper explores the intertwined relationships between football, big-business, media and the neo-liberal state in Mubarak’s Egypt. It also discusses how this peculiar complex of state-controlled, politicised football has been challenged by Ultras groups, before and after the 2011 revolution.

Long Abstract

This paper dramatises some aspects of Egypt's peculiar neo-liberal experience, taking a closer look at Egyptian football in the last decades. Drawing on press material, movies and ethnographic fieldwork in Cairo, the paper argues that football formed an intrinsic part of the hyper-nationalist, state-controlled neo-liberalism that was intrinsic to the Mubarak-regime, not the least since the game provided an arena to discursively and materially define what Egypt ought to be, and how Egyptians ought to talk and behave.

Presenting findings from fieldwork among the Ultras groups of Cairo's two football giants Ahly and Zamalek, the paper also discusses how this complex of big-business, satellite media and oppressive politics has been challenged in recent years. Emerging in 2007, international Ultras principles such as 'anti-media', 'anti modern football' and an aversion for the police, resonated well with large sections of the Egyptian youth, and the Ultras grew quickly, directing stern criticism towards the corruption within the domestic game, while repeatedly fighting State Security forces inside and outside the stadiums. Consequently, the Ultras gained an experience that proved crucial in the 2011 uprising, and their importance as a revolutionary force is on the rise, not the least after the massacre of 74 Ahly Ultras at Port Said stadium in February 2012. How do Ultras in Cairo perceive of their role in the revolution and the struggle against the commercial-political monster that Egyptian football turned into under Mubarak? What are their alternative visions for what football should be and represent in a future, democratic Egypt?

Globalization of football in Kolkata : process, reach, and response - an ethnographic approach

Author: Abhijit Das (West Bengal State University)  email
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Short Abstract

Football, a culture- complex, presently has become a popular culture in Kolkata under globalization. The variegated primary and secondary involvements in it, can be observed its ubiquity in social, economic, political, and cultural spheres of the mainstream society. The corporate sponsorships and media take the game in global networks.

Long Abstract

Globalization is a current phase of worldwide impact of industrialization and its socio-economic, political, and cultural consequences on the world over. Footbal ( Soccer), being a culture-trait complex, presently, creating frenzied popularity in Kolkata, the global city of West Bengal. Football, once has been introduced in the Bengali core by culture contact has gradually become one of the significant events of popular culture. Bearing an age-old social history, it merits attention, interests and involvement like participants of diverse ethnic backgrounds, regions, social status and strata, professions, political parties, and genders. The involvements and popularity depend on expansive network of mass media across the globe. Corporate honchos companies of good repute looking at clubs with greater interests to make their business strong. Money is spent in tournaments, telecast, tours, players'salary, training and so on. Present study explores the reflection of globalization in its technological, technical, social, economic, political, and cultural milieu.

Infamous footballers: constructing careers and choices on displacements

Author: Luciano Jahnecka (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina)  email
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Short Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to analyses some recent mobilities of brazilian football players. Such discussion is based on how these professionals chose clubs and cities to live and work, mainly taking the concepts of lifestyle and life project to produce a narrative of infamous players trajectories.

Long Abstract

The intentions and objectives in constitute a football career are not unanimous, some players alternate periods of unemployment and "good" contracts, others can chose club and city to live in a range of possibilities. Difficultly professional footballers can play and live at their hometown, on the opposite way of most part of other workers. This is important to understand how professionals footballers have to handle constant displacements, changing necessities, preferences and habits of life. Although the support of food and family nearby are significantly organized to a few part of them (two important elements according to football researches in anthropology), the majority of such professionals are forced to rearrange the life project by the conditions faced at field of work. In addition to traditional aspects which defines contract possibilities, as injuries, player agents, performances, nationality, age, etc., we sustain that such displacements on footballer's careers are promoted within some contacts and destinies previously known but not experienced, which implies in different ways to live in the cities.

The Politics of Fan Protest: 'Football Consciousness', Supporter Ownership and Fan Rivalry

Author: George Poulton (Manchester University)  email
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Short Abstract

This Paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork to look at the politics of contemporary protests among English football fans.

Long Abstract

This paper draws on 15 months ethnographic fieldwork amongst fans of FC United of Manchester (hereon FC United), a supporter owned football club formed by disaffected Manchester United fans in protest against the leveraged buy-out of Manchester United by the Glazer family in 2005. I suggest that the formation of FC United needs to be understood within a context of rising discontent and politicisation amongst some Manchester United fans over the increased commercialisation and neo-liberalisation of football in general and Manchester United in particular. Within the paper I look at an argument often articulated by prominent figures within FC United, that fans of all clubs need to campaign together and set aside inter-club rivalries in order to bring about political change in the way the sport is governed and supporter ownership at all clubs. I argue that the position advocated here can be understood as a form of 'football consciousness', analogous to class consciousness, where supporters recognise their shared position within an iniquitous structure which harms all fans. I analyse moments where this shared political 'consciousness' can be glimpsed amongst supporters of different clubs but also argue that the uneven outcomes produced by the free-market model of football club ownership militates against broad-based inter-club fan campaigning.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Sponsors

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