Together, but separate

Christer Ericsson
Örebro University

Philip Dine & Seán Crosson
Sport, Representation and Evolving Identities in Europe
369 sidor, hft.
Bern: Peter Lang Publishing Group2010 (Cultural Identities Studies, Vol. 19)
ISBN 978-3-03911-977-6

The case studies collected in this anthology comprise a total of 15 essays that discuss sport in modern and contemporary Europe, with a common overall aim of contributing to knowledge about the construction of identities. In the introduction the editors write that the different contributions and the work as a whole seek to explore and explain the processes of representation and mediation involved in the sporting construction and, on the basis of this, problematise local, national and global identities. The essays are intended to contribute to the ongoing elucidation of the role of sport in the processes of identity construction in contemporary societies and – which is important to point out – have a strictly limited European perspective. Before being published in the anthology the contributions formed the basis for a series of seminars held at the National University of Ireland, Galway, during 2008 and 2009.

The anthology is structured in five different parts. The first part consists of three contributions assembled under the heading “From Diffusion to Governance”. Two of these contributions focus on the shift from European diffusion in the nineteenth century to contemporary sports governance within the EU.  The third contribution studies the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and looks at how both the ancient history and entrepreneurial modernity of Greece was mobilised in order to maximise a positive impact on the national self-images of this global sporting event. Part 2 has the overall title of “National Sporting Narratives” and here the contributions focus on the significance of sport as a rich field for the nation – based on representations and, from different perspectives and different sources, its impact on both “select” and “popular” cultures in Europe. The third theme, with the overall title of “Gendered Representations”, consists of three contributions revolving around conventionally gendered masculinity: the hyper-masculinity of boxing, the surfing culture, and Irishness that is communicated through the Irish media by its conflicting representations of the former Manchester United football player and one of Ireland’s best ever footballers, Roy Keane. The contributions in the fourth part of the anthology come under the heading “Contesting and Reinventing Identities”. With regard to the formation of identity, Alan Bairner’s essay about young Catholic footballers born in Northern Ireland who have in recent years decided to wear the colours of the Irish Republic is the most interesting contribution. In the final part of the anthology, entitled “New Sporting Europe”, the focus is on the changes that have taken place in two of Europe’s sporting superpowers since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The anthology’s final contribution, by John Bale, problematises Europe by discussing Europeans writing the African “Olympian”. In short, Bale explores colonial attitudes to an indigenous African body. Bale’s essay is also one of the strongest contributions, is well written and has interesting analyses.

What I miss in the anthology, though, is a text that problematises the identity concept and highlights injustices within sport and the dangers of sport creating strong identities. A good anthology requires reflection. In my view, it is important for it to cover an explicit problem area and not overstretch itself. Unfortunately, I think that this anthology suffers from this very problem.

Reading the book made me wonder about the use of anthology as a form. On several of the occasions in which I have reviewed anthologies (and even taken part in them myself) I have actually regarded an anthology as something rather boring. They are seldom really interesting – even though I am well aware of the significance and functionality of the form. The aim of an anthology is to stimulate interest in research into important subjects and to inspire other researchers to take part in a deeper and broader discussion. However, anthologies are often characterised by a lack of synthesis; especially if the authors have not had sufficient mutual exchange. I regard this as a problem, especially as it is becoming more and more common within the Social Sciences and Humanities in Sweden to produce anthologies. This is a trend that will presumably increase as it becomes all the more important to procure swift publication (preferably in English) and for us as researchers to be quoted – so that in the new hysterical bibliometrical culture we might be able to be counted as interesting scholars. Is English the language and the articles in the form of an anthology the future? This is why I’m writing this review in English! (Might it also be the case that an anthology fits in with today’s general zap-culture?) I began to think about this when I had finished reading this anthology; not just because the book as a whole failed to capture my interest – on the contrary, a number of high quality essays are included – but because at most they serve as introductions to a problem area. How will the propagation of the anthology affect the possibility of more profound and coherent texts being published? Or is it all in my imagination?






© Christer Ericsson 2012.

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