Sport and the claiming of individuality: finding oneself in the crowd
(Simon Fraser University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper considers sport as a paradoxical means for claiming individuality. The ‘large issues’ this opens up can, I argue, best be illuminated by studies of the ‘small places’—individual lives, particular activities, specific arenas, and networks of activities—which anthropologists explore.
Paper long abstract:
Sport and individuality have long tended to be relegated beyond the pale of 'legitimate' anthropological concern, but the logic of this arrangement is being undermined by ethnographic undertakings within these two distinctive fields of inquiry. Building on the achievements registered in each, this paper considers sport as a popular but paradoxical means for claiming individuality. On the one hand, sport entails distinctive forms of embodied participation in specific types of localized activities. These may be taken up in order to draw attention to the particular careers and distinctively personal accomplishments of individuals as athletes, coaches, or spectators. On the other, it increasingly features the globalization and mediation of commodified sport events promoted and consumed across space and time. In view of this, what forms of individuality can sport nurture, and how might these in turn shape sporting practices? 'Large issues' such as these, the paper argues, can be powerfully illuminated by studies of the 'small places'—individual lives, particular activities, specific arenas, and networks of activities—within which anthropologists are interrogating sport and individuality.
Small places, large issues: thinking through anthropological conundrums