The mobility of athlete professionals from the Global South to the Global North pose central problems for the meaning of work, the reconfiguration of age and gender hierarchies, the transformation of kinship structures, and the important role of religion for many migrant athletes.
In many parts of the world, the possibility of becoming a successful professional athlete mobilizes the dreams and actions of numerous young men and women, fueled by the hope of regaining productive economic citizenship in the context of poverty, marginality and immobility. But athletic talent only translates into the possibility of economic productivity in the industrial North, and athletic migrations have become, for large number of boys and girls, youth, families, villages, nations and states in the Global South, the way out of economic precarity and the embodiment of millenarian hope. At the same time, athletic bodies are inherently fragile, the sports industry fickle, and the paths of migrant athletes strewn with obstacles that often lead to immobility or failed mobility. Immobility can take many forms, including the geographical immobility of the migrant stranded in a foreign country as a result of failure or deceit, and the socio-economic immobility of the athlete unable to perform because of age or injury. This panel seeks to explore ways in which the transnational mobility of professional athletes and the dreams of athletic success help us reconsider central themes in socio-cultural anthropology: the meaning of work and its transformations across time and space; the reconfiguration of age and gender hierarchies that wealth can engender; the transformation of kinship through remittances and dependence; and the important role that religion plays in the lives of many migrant athletes.