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Sports Studies Caucus

ASA 2012 Sports Studies Event Schedule

As you may have heard, the ASA 2012 schedule has been released. Events of interest for Sports Studies Caucus members are listed below:

THURSDAY, November 15

5:00-6:45 p.m. (Room 209a) - Documentary Screening and Directorâ€(tm)s Discussion with Bernardo Ruiz: Roberto Clemente (Rob Ruck)

Hailing from Puerto Rico, Roberto Clemente was the first player selected in the 1954 Major League Baseball draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and would go on to play his entire 18-season career there. This in-depth documentary chronicles the outfielderâ€(tm)s path as the first Latin American Hall of Famer, from his early years in Puerto Rico and his arrival in the United States, to his outspoken resistance to U.S. racism, to his 1972 death in a plane crash while bringing supplies to Nicaragua earthquake survivors. Rob Ruck, University of Pittsburgh, will serve as discussant and moderator.

FRIDAY, November 16

12:00-1:45 p.m. (Room 102b) - More than a Game: Global Sports, Exotic Bodies, and Contested Spaces (David Leonard, Kathy Jamieson, Thabiti Lewis, Jose Manuel Alamillo, Noah Cohan, Michael Willard)

In 2004, Puerto Rico defeated the United States basketball team by a whopping 25 points.  While a victory on the court, the event�(tm)s power and meaning transcended the basketball arena. Illustrating the ways in which sports function as a space of conflict, as a vehicle to underscore and illustrate, national pride, power, and autonomy, the victory came to symbolize the strength and independence of Puerto Rico from the United States.  Notwithstanding the neocolonial relationship, persistent poverty, legal disenfranchisement, and state violence evident in the situation of Vieques, the basketball team�(tm)s victory challenged dominant narratives about Puerto Rico, especially with regard to its relationship to the United States.
Evident in the history of Puerto Rican basketball, sports function as important cultural signifiers in the United States and around the world. While financially and politically important, race, gender, and nationality are often at the core of mainstream media accounts and circulated narratives about sports.  This panel focuses on those three frameworks in critically considering modern sports, from the 1930s to the present.  Beyond representation, it works to unpack and reflect on the ways in which sports shape both identity and material conditions in contemporary society. The race, gender, and nation-based ideologies evident here illustrate the profound ways that sports can become a space of exotification, wherein spectators and the media fetishize the bodies of athletes, particularly women and athletes of color, imagine sports as a vehicle out of poverty, or represent sports as a place to mediate and eliminate larger tensions and conflicts.

In his paper, Jose M. Alamillo focuses on competing national identities in “Good Neighbor” sporting events featuring U.S. and Latin American soccer and basketball teams between 1933 and 1945. He reveals the extent to which race and gender conflicts between the rival teams revealed competing national and masculine identities that extended beyond the playing field.

David J. Leonard critically examines how black and Latina athletes are consumed, represented and sexualized in sports websites and on YouTube. exploring the ways in which race, gender, and sexuality operates within these venues, his paper argues that new media fosters the dissemination of sexist tropes and hypersexualizing representations, which neutralize any potential disruption of female entry into (male) sporting spaces.

Noah Cohan considers the way in which white male NBA fans fetishize the black basketball body as a competitive and aesthetic ideal. Building on David Shields�(tm)s notion, in Black Planet (1999), that “race, the league�(tm)s taboo topic, is the league�(tm)s true subject,” Cohan examines self-reflexive NBA fan narratives in order to better understand a fan-player relationship that, for millions of white American men, constitutes their most substantive relationship with African Americans.
Michael Willard explores sports as a global space of resistance, focusing on the importance of sports during the first half of the twentieth century as a means of creating (or strengthening) networks of transnational spatial organization for Diasporic Chinese and Mexicans in Pacific Coast cities from Canada to California to Mexico. The paper offers comparative examples of Chinese and Mexican athletes and sports networks created across national borders as a contribution to the history of transnational networks previous scholars have identified in business networks, family ties, and social organizations.

This panel is thus predicated on the assumption that sports are more than a playful diversion.  They not only afford us a unique and important space in which to think critically about human beliefs and behaviors, but they also direct attention to the centrality of race, gender and nationalism to American identities and experiences. These papers reflect on the cultural resonance and relevance of sports, highlighting the ways in which we make sense of our societies through what happens on sporting fields throughout the world.

2:00-3:45 p.m. (Room 209a) - Examining the Dimensions of Sport within the Empire of American Studies (C. Richard King, Amy Bass, John Bloom, Daniel Nathan, Michael Oriard)

Few domains offer deeper understandings of American life, past present and future, than sport.  The theme of the annual meeting offers up seemingly endless examples of its promise. Physical training and athletic endeavors anchored myriad civilizing projects, animating imperial initiatives undertaken first within Indian Country and then in newly acquired territories, possessions, and colonies.  Later, as the use of baseball to advance US foreign policy and the popularity of the NBA in China attest, it has played a leading role in political, cultural, and economic efforts to secure minds and markets abroad, which some might label cultural imperialism or even neo-colonialism.  Far from a unilateral force of dominance, sport has equally fostered resistance, serving as a staging ground for popular protest (Muhammad Ali and opposition to Vietnam) and the construction of oppsitional identities (the Iroquois National Lacrosse team as an affirmation of indegenous nationalism).

Oddly, for all this, and much more, what makes the place of sport in American Studies noteworthy is absence.  Indeed, the theme of the 2012 Annual Meeting does not make any reference to sport even as it highlights popular and expressive culture, labor and capital, as well as national identity and transnational relations.  This omission is particularly striking on a number of levels.  Most obviously, countless tourists, and many attendees at the ASA annual meeting, will participate in sporting escapes (from golf and tennis to snorkeling and boating, attend athletic events, and tour pre-Columbian sites devoted to physical culture.  And while the cultivation of self and society through physical culture in commonwealth in many ways mirrors other contexts of US imperialism, international sporting competitions, in which Puerto Ricans can represent the island, has afforded a unique means of fashioning identity and pushing back against the US.  And baseball, arguably the defining American pastime, has fortified the transnational flow of young athletes from the Caribbean to the fields of dreams and sporting spectacles of late capitalist USA.

The roundtable brings together five leading scholars of sport studies.  They come from diverse locations, employing distinct, if complimentary, theoretical frameworks and methodological toolkits.  Together, they open a dialogue about the significance of sport in American culture and American Studies, reflecting on the empire of knowledge in the academy and the knowledge of empire within sporting worlds.  Drawing on their previous scholarship, they will (a) reflect on why sport matters to Americans Studies, (b) interpret its historical marginalization in a field so open to other forms of physical, performative, and popular culture, (c) unpack the prominence of sport in US cultures of imperialism and efforts to resist them, and (d) grapple with the intellectual and cultural politics of writing about sport with academic and more popular spaces.

4:00-5:45 p.m. (Convention Center Foyer) - Business Meeting of the Sports Studies Caucus

Here we�(tm)ll gather to discuss the Sports Studies Caucus: its organization, goals, and leadership. All are welcome for what should be a friendly and productive gathering. An informal dinner will likely follow.

SATURDAY, November 17

8:00-9:45 a.m. (Room 202b) - Sport and Empire: from the Caribbean to MacArthur Park (Theresa Runstedtler, Lara Putnam, Daniel Gilbert, Jennifer Doyle)

Since the 1970s, the study of American sport has evolved from a smattering of hagiographic biographies of athletes and institutional studies of teams and leagues into a multi-disciplinary melange of investigations underscoring sport�(tm)s meaning to people, often in a transnational context.  Some of the best of this work has focused on questions of race and identity in immigrant communities and the circum-Caribbean.  In these shifting locales, where people confront marginalization and scorn on a daily basis, sport often acquires extra-ordinary significance.  It allows people to define who they are and forge new forms of social cohesion as they struggle to build lives of their own.

This session brings together three scholars who have been working on these questions in the Caribbean, Central America, and the communities that men and women from this region created in metropolitan centers from Harlem to Los Angeles.

Lara Putnam, author of a forthcoming book on the politics of migrants and race in the Circum-Caribbean, will discuss the role of sport in the creation of a transnational public sphere in the Greater Caribbean during the interwar years.  By using migrant cricket clubs as well as African American and pan-Caribbean boxing icons, Putnam describes how sports fandom became a critical realm for the expression of nested loyalties-from the parish and workplace to the island and “Negro Race.”

Dan Gilbert, author of a forthcoming work on baseball in the age of free agency that focuses on the wave of Latin talent remaking major league baseball, examines a single sporting venue on the game�(tm)s periphery.  Built during dictator Anastasio Somoza�(tm)s heyday, estadio Nacional has morphed from the architectural embodiment of a state-of-the-art dictator (and beisbol fanatico) into a symbolic site of revolutionary nationalism after the Sandinista seizure of state power, into a hybrid articulation of modern Nicaragua.

Jennifer Doyle, who has written extensively on sport, soccer, and sexuality, takes apart the struggle over the use of a section of MacArthur Park in Los Angeles to reveal the evolving tensions over immigration, identity, and gender that emerged in the battle over this public space.  Doyle�(tm)s background differs from the other panelists.  Her training was in Literature, not History, and includes two years of experience running a men�(tm)s league in the Pico-Union section of Los Angeles. She uses that background to lay bare the contradictions in the discourse of how soccer in the United States has been characterized: as a women�(tm)s game, a Latino game, and an immigrant game.

Together these papers allow an exploration of the politics of scale in sports studies-from micro-studies of the most local scenes to macro-analysis of transnational flows of labor and capital.

SUNDAY, November 18

2:00-3:45 p.m. (Room 102c) - Sports, Blackness, and the Body Politic (Adrian Burgos, Joel Nathan Rosen, Roberta Newman, Millery Polyne, Frank A. Guridy)

In this panel, presenters examine the intersections of sports, race and the body within a local U.S., national and international contexts. We aim to analyze theoretical frameworks of class, race, gender and the urban sports spectacle in order to generate new ways of thinking about social theory, identity, and locations of resistance and of agency arising from sporting contexts.

From Jack Johnson�(tm)s defeat of Jim Jeffries to the debates over the legacy of Jackie Robinson in American understandings of race through the role of FIFA�(tm)s World Cup in South Africa�(tm)s structural development, sport should be understood beyond masculine bravado, violence, and the joy and agony of competition. While many continue to bemoan that sports are (merely) a form of commercialized entertainment that anesthetizes the masses, the papers in this panel reveal how sport can indeed be understood as a serious vehicle for questioning the production of knowledge, for conceptualizing and analyzing the triumphs and limitations of our national and transnational societies along with their complicated history. They consider what ways the structures and products of the sporting industry reify concepts of race and gender. In so doing, the papers ponder whether sports can be used as a transformative and resistant tool to the exploitative institutions and structures, especially within the capitalist industry of organized sports.

Millery Polyne�(tm)s paper examines the photographic history of black athletes with a particular eye on how black sporting bodies in pictures borrow a grammar of representing the enslaved, unclothed and lynched body within an American (transnational) context. At the same time, the image of the black sporting body often exhibits a heroic, sculptured entity that provided the photographed subject and marginalized peoples, an agency not often afforded to them during the first half of the twentieth century.

Adrian Burgos�(tm)s paper explores how ideas of race and ethnicity within the U.S. sporting press combined with what scholar Alan Klein labels “progressive ethnocentrism” influences the consideration of black Latinos for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This, he argues, along with the circumstances surrounding Roberto Clemente�(tm)s election into the Hall has produced a dynamic wherein black Latinos are both treated as racialized subjects and faulted for their failing to meet the standard of Clemente�(tm)s social justice activism.

Roberta Newman�(tm)s presentation examines the ways in which the notion of Blackness is represented in Major League baseball.  Particular attention will be paid to the positioning of Derek Jeter, who, serves as one of the public faces of the sport, both in terms of the way he is marketed by MLB, as an organization, and by the way he pitches national brands to the American public, in terms of shifting definitions of Blackness.

Frank Guridy�(tm)s paper provides a multilayered examination through the lens of race and empire of Muhammad Ali�(tm)s 1967 fight versus Ernie Terrell in the Houston Astrodome.  Guridy notes how within the boxing ring, Ali�(tm)s performance signified a particular version of blackness that combined with his stance on Vietnam was viewed as a threat to US imperial designs.

By Noah Cohan, Thu, June 14, 2012 - 9:42 am

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