Accepted paper:

It's all gone quiet over…where? Football fans in virtual, transnational space.


John McManus (British Institute at Ankara)

Paper short abstract:

My paper traces the contours of a transnational supporters group for the Turkish club side Besiktas. Through ethnographic fieldwork both online through social media and offline at matches, it investigates how technology is allowing for radically new forms of association, communication and belonging amongst fans.

Paper long abstract:

My paper proposes an anthropological approach to the question of how technology (specifically the internet) is allowing for new forms of association and communication based around sport. It takes as its subject fans for the Turkish football team Beşiktaş. Beşiktaş are one of the most widely supported clubs in Turkey but also have significant numbers of fans across diaspora Turkish communities in Europe. How are these individuals - many of whom do not have Turkish passports and have never been to a 'home' game - constructing their 'fanness'? Based on ethnographic fieldwork, both with social media online and offline at European Cup matches, the paper teases out the issues present in the formation of the Beşiktaş footballing community. What happens when a fan identity and interaction that is generated online - through the social media of Twitter, Facebook pages and YouTube channels - is forced to become 'real' within the spectacle and ritual of a football match? Key questions include: what conflicts and contestations emerge when 'Turks' from a diverse array of nations, classes and diaspora communities come together in person to support a Turkish football club? How is social media shaping individual identity and the spectacle of mass sporting events? How are both fans and the club responding to the newfound realisation of the geographical diversity and global consumption patterns of the fan community? And finally, do we need to rethink the operation of some of sport's primary identifiers, namely gender-based association and embodiment, in an increasingly globalised virtual sphere?

panel G24
The anthropology of sport in a changing world