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Accepted Paper:

Running into trouble: bureaucratic nightmares, desperate plans, and other absurdities and their consequences in the careers of professional Kenyan runners  
Konstantin Biehl (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how absurdities are constantly challenging athletic plans for stability and structure. Enigmatic bureaucracies, scheming managers, or weird random encounters abroad shape athletes’ careers and lives and force them to develop strategies to handle the uncertainty of the absurd.

Paper long abstract:

The first advice a young athlete in the Kenyan highlands receives from older, internationally experienced veterans is to not only keep a balanced training plan but also a thought-trough career plan. He must find stability which enables them to successfully manage the uncertainty of bodily performance through training, but also be prepared to defend their dream against different kinds of challenges often described as absurd, weird, or ridiculous. Often this absurdity is the result of an institutional or individual logic unknown and therefore strange to the athlete, yet, they have to engage with it repeatedly (and sometimes despite better knowledge) if they want to pursue a career in running. The absurd can take the form of a foreign bureaucracy and its unknown inner workings producing uncertainty, anger, the failure of plans, as well as new plans, hopeful but set to fail, like in the interactions of young scholarship athletes with the US embassy in Nairobi. It can take the form of fraud, often by scheming managers who cheat or withhold price money. This can lead to, in itself, absurd retaliation by athletes, like a faked hostage situation at a Chinese airport. And it can take the form of intercultural encounters abroad, not in itself threatening careers but world views and conceptions of the world. While the first reaction to these absurdities is often sharp sarcasm on the state of running and its institution, athletes developed diverse practices of solidarity, sharing knowledge and tricks with younger athletes, and hope.

Panel P063b
States of the absurd II
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -