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Accepted Paper:

Mystical wrestlers vs rational footballers: enacting masculinity in Senegal's sporting arenas  
Mark Hann (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Comparing the diverging trajectories of aspiring Senegalese wrestlers and football players, I identify masculinity, mobility and magico-religious practice as areas of change and contention.

Paper long abstract:

In many parts of Africa, football is not only the most popular spectator sport - it also offers a pathway out of economic hardship through the dream of a professional career. In Senegal, football's predominance is rivalled by the increasingly lucrative sporting discipline of lamb ji: traditional wrestling with punches. Many young men actively pursue careers in one of these two sports, which diverge significantly from one another in their orientation towards global and local forces. Whereas the globalized sport of football is inextricably linked with economic projects of migration to the Global North, wrestling presents itself as a resolutely local and community-based activity steeped heavily in magico-religious beliefs and rituals. Comparing the hopes, practices and trajectories of aspiring footballers and wrestlers, I identify masculinity as an area of heated debate and contention. How are competing ideals of masculine success enacted in the sporting arena? How do football and wrestling construct specific expectations and inform decision-making processes? And how do young athletes negotiate the web of complex and contradictory pressures involving religion, tradition, migration, morality, family and professionalism within which they find themselves? The contrasting involvement of athletes in magico-religious practices offers one salient example of these contradictory pressures. By collapsing the distinction between 'mystical' wrestlers and 'rational' footballers, I suggest that sport can serve as a lens through which to study changing masculinities in a globalized world.

Panel P008
Transnational sport migrants and human futures
  Session 1