1st Edition

Sport, Migration, and Gender in the Neoliberal Age

    274 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    274 Pages 26 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This ethnographic collection explores how neoliberalism has permeated the bodies, subjectivities, and gender of youth around the world as global sport industries have expanded their reach into marginal areas, luring young athletes with the dream of pursuing athletic careers in professional leagues of the Global North.

    Neoliberalism has reconfigured sport since the 1980s, as sport clubs and federations have become for-profit businesses, in conjunction with television and corporate sponsors. Neoliberal sport has had other important effects, which are rarely the object of attention: as the national economies of the Global South and local economies of marginal areas of the Global North have collapsed under pressure from global capital, many young people dream of pursuing a sport career as an escape from poverty. But this elusive future is often located elsewhere, initially in regional centres, though ultimately in the wealthy centres of the Global North that can support a sport infrastructure. The pursuit of this future has transformed kinship relations, gender relations, and the subjectivities of people. This collection of rich ethnographies from diverse regions of the world, from Ghana to Finland and from China to Fiji, pulls the reader into the lives of men and women in the global sport industries, including aspiring athletes, their families, and the agents, coaches, and academy directors shaping athletes’ dreams. It demonstrates that the ideals of neoliberalism spread in surprising ways, intermingling with categories like gender, religion, indigeneity, and kinship. Athletes’ migrations provide a novel angle on the global workings of neoliberalism.

    This book will be of key interest to scholars in Gender Studies, Anthropology, Sport Studies, and Migration Studies.

    1. Introduction: Sport, Migration, and Gender in the Neoliberal Age

    Niko Besnier, Domenica Gisella Calabrò, and Daniel Guinness

    Neoliberal Sport and Social Relations

    2. Benevolent Hosts, Ungrateful Guests: African Footballers, Hospitality and the Sports Business in Istanbul

    John McManus

    3. "This is Business!": Ethiopian Runners in a Global Marketplace

    Michael Crawley

    4. Labouring Athletes, Labouring Mothers: Ethiopian Women Athletes’ Bodies at Work

    Hannah Borenstein

    5. From Liberation to Neoliberalism: Race, Mobility, and Masculinity in Caribbean Cricket

    Adnan Hossain

    6. Friendship, Respect, and Success: Kenyan Runners in Japan

    Michael Kentaro Peters

    7. Neoliberalism, Masculinity, and Social Mobility in Chinese Tennis

    Matthew Haugen

    Reconstituting Subjectivities

    8. Fijian Rugby Wives and the Gendering of Globally Mobile Families

    Daniel Guinness and Xandra Hecht

    9. The Global Warrior: Māori, Rugby, and Diasporic Indigeneity

    Domenica Gisella Calabrò

    10. Being "the Best Ever": Contradictions of Immobility and Aspiration for Boxers in Accra, Ghana

    Leo Hopkinson

    11. The Dream Is to Leave: Imagining Migration and Mobility Through Sport in Senegal

    Mark Hann

    12. "This is a Business, not a Charity": Football Academies, Political Economy, and Masculinity in Cameroon

    Uroš Kovač

    13. Skating on Thin Ice: Hockey Hope for Young Male Players in the Neoliberal Age

    Sari Pietikäinen and Anna-Liisa Ojala


    14. Neoliberalism, the Gift Economy, and Gender

    Susan Brownell


    Niko Besnier is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. In 2012–17, he directed the ERC-funded project titled "Globalization, Sport, and the Precarity of Masculinity" (GLOBALSPORT), which inspired this edited volume. With Susan Brownell and Thomas F. Carter, he coauthored The Anthropology of Sport: Bodies, Borders, Biopolitics (2018), which has been translated into French, Spanish, and Japanese. His other works have focused on sexuality and gender, globalization, precarity, and language.

    Domenica Gisella Calabrò holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Messina, Italy, and is currently discipline coordinator and lecturer in Gender Studies at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. She was a postdoctoral researcher in the GLOBALSPORT project. Her research has focused on indigeneity, sport and gender in Aotearoa New Zealand. She is now also involved in research on gender-based violence in the Pacific Islands.

    Daniel Guinness holds a D.Phil. in Anthropology from the University of Oxford and was a postdoctoral researcher in the GLOBALSPORT project. His interests are in the changing social relations and performances of masculinities in the context of globalized neoliberal labour markets, particularly those involving sporting migration. He has undertaken ethnographic field research in Fiji, Argentina, and Europe.