(British Institute at Ankara)
Paper Short Abstract:
This paper takes journeys to away football matches in Europe as its lens to rethink the materialities and mobilities of modern forms of pilgrimage. Football pilgrimages, it argues, are a key device through which new European imaginaries are being woven.
Paper long abstract:
On most weekday evenings during the football season, thousands of fans are flying across Europe to watch their sides play in European cup competition. My paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork with one particular group of this travelling patchwork: Europe-based fans for the Turkish football side Beşiktaş. 'Classic' theories of ritualization (Turner) capture part of the trip's allure for Beşiktaş fans: the transformative arc of separation, limen and reintegration that the away match, like pilgrimage more broadly, provides. Yet the centrality of the body to football fandom and the diverse and contradictory ways fans use them - drinking, fighting, swearing and chanting - problematises viewing the experience as a unified rite of passage.
I suggest we can hold these two analyses together by situating the experience within wider social and technological assemblages. From the rise of the budget airline industry and city-break tourism, to smartphones and the Schengen free movement area, I show ethnographically how imaginings of fan belongings become enmeshed both within the physical travel to an ever-changing kaleidoscope of places and the socially-mediated detritus of photos, videos and comments the journey conjures. The process, I argue, is fashioning new imaginaries of 'Europe', forcing us to rethink the cultural practices through which one lays claim to the label of 'European'. Looking outwards at Turkey and obliquely at sports, I conclude, can help us garner more purchase on the materiality and movements of contemporary pilgrimage practices, better understanding how these are feeding into wider political creations of what 'Europe' is and who belongs.
Changing face of European pilgrimage [Pilgrimage Studies Network] I