Accepted paper:

Atmospheres of agreement and contention in football


John McManus (British Institute at Ankara)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the role of contention and agreement in atmosphere generation by looking at the diverse spaces in which transnational football fans come together to consume football.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores contention and agreement in atmosphere generation surrounding one of the most mass-consumed of cultural practices - football. It focuses specifically on transnational fans for the Turkish team Besiktas. Based on ethnographic fieldwork across Europe, the paper investigates how an "atmosphere" of Besiktaslık (Besiktas-ness) is generated in the varied spaces where people coalesce to watch and talk about Besiktas. The subject matter echoes the panel's emphasis on boundary complication; diaspora football fans are themselves "in-between", following a team from a country in which they do not reside, and the consumption of professional football in the twenty-first century inherently transnational. The same person can (and does) meet other Besiktas fans in a football stadium in Madrid, a male-only Turkish coffeehouse in Cologne, a gentrified bar in trendy East London and an online forum. Atmospheres of "unity" and "belonging" are generated one minute - through merchandise, media consumption, bodily coordination, swearing or chanting - only to be instantly ruptured, via a fistfight in the stands or an inappropriate comment or picture on Facebook. The paper shows ethnographically how these atmospheres emerge out of practices aimed at balancing contention and agreement across variegated spaces and places. It underlines the growing importance of leisure practices and media consumption as sources of affective attachment ("atmosphere generators"?). And it explores how the perceived apotheosis of bounded identity - a football team from a particular city and country, demarcated through colours and uniforms - is continually forced up against the diversity of cosmopolitan practices that accompany so transnational a constituency.

panel P03
Exploring 'atmospheres': an anthropological approach?