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Sign in via your Institution Sign in. Purchase Subscription prices and ordering Short-term Access To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above. This article is also available for rental through DeepDyve. View Metrics. Email alerts New issue alert. Advance article alerts. Article activity alert. The same fifteen players are listed under ten ethnic labels. These matches constituted occasions where individuals from potentially disparate cultural backgrounds and occupations came together in a communicative space highlighting individual and group similarities and differences.
Such processes of social interaction and discovery were tied to the existence and constituency of the competing team itself. Not only did the latter fail to supply economic security to the urban masses, it often failed to engender any firm, guiding criteria through which Africans could ascertain precisely why certain individuals fared significantly better than others. They were rather emergent explanatory techniques forged in response to complex existential puzzles generated by the contingencies of urban life.
The connections between football, magic, and various understandings of the sources of political and economic power seem to challenge the earlier argument that Brazzavillois appreciated football for its fairly straightforward structures and rules. What did the deployment of magic involve, if not the very suspension or subversion of the rule-governed nature of the game?
How can this apparent contradiction be explained? Recalling his experience as an eighteen-year old player-coach of a local team, Ganga writes:.
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I was proud of my role. I almost considered myself a national coach with all the concerns and seriousness that entails. Looking ahead to an important match, I decided to undertake, every evening after class, with my colleagues and mature pupils who played among us, a sequence of assiduously prepared training sessions. Not only daily drills but specific offensive and defensive strategies for match play were discussed and practiced by Brazzaville clubs. One must recall that football was not only played and directly observed, but was subsequently discussed, sometimes for hours on end. Martin reports that many a Sunday afternoon was spent by groups of men spinning descriptions of recent matches and memorable events from the history of the sport.
Football had a vibrant discursive life stretching well beyond the field of play.
Magic may have been most important at this level. The potential presence and impact of magical influences broadened the conjectural space in which the results of a match might be interpreted and deliberated upon.
Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville
Alternative accounts of pivotal moments in a game could proliferate and enrich post-game conversations for hours, days, and even years on end. Brazzaville football could certainly not have achieved the popularity it did had it not been compelling to discuss, interpret, and reinterpret. Magic was valuable for its capacity to extend and enrich conversations about games. This amalgam of off-field expressions of partisan fervor obviously posed a keen threat to the sense of disciplined orderliness administrators like Bellocq thought that sport should exemplify and convey to the general public.
Attempting to apply these explanations to colonial Brazzaville, the first one can be readily dismissed. No matter how impoverished quotidian experience may have been for many Brazzavillois at both material and symbolic levels , there is no data implying that football was ever seen as the lone realm of meaningful cultural engagement in the growing city.
Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville
The third explanation can also be dismissed. During the colonial period the sport remained amateur and did not undergo the type of bureaucratization addressed by Jeffrey in the South African context. Several elements of local fan violence contest, or at least substantially complicate, this line of argument. Threats and concrete acts of violence were more likely the product of very contemporary pressures, particularly changing social and economic problems that heightened antagonistic feelings at certain specific junctures. In the Brazzaville case, it seems fan aggression is largely explained by the inability of on-field competition to resolve, or even foreground in a satisfactory way, the multi-layered complexities and contradictions shaping urban social struggles.
In broad terms, one can state that violence flared at those moments when the game as a form of quasi-liminal social play crumbled beneath the weight of the conflicts and pressures of the encompassing mundane world. In its bounded structure, football sometimes could not produce the quality of drama that was required of it. In their violence, crowds and players alike foregrounded and acted upon currents of collective antagonism in ways that football—or at least rule-governed football—could never enable.
In social-symbolic terms, the ensemble of meanings and messages broadcast within the constraints of match play was simply inadequate to the expressive desires of the public.
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Of course, this diminishing of distance need not be seen as a rejection of football as a domain and vehicle of urban popular culture. The violence occasionally provoked by the sport in conjunction with other social tensions is not at all inconsistent with its unquestionably pivotal role in popular culture as a collective, critical process. In instances of football-related violence, mass culture finds expression not in adoration of the sport but in its partial destruction. The masses never cease appraising the game, most often enchanted, but sometimes deeply dissatisfied.
Representative passages from Balandier and Fabian are helpful in formultating some final remarks on Brazzaville football and popular culture. It is in need of new leaders, new values, freedom of expression and creation. As long as these conditions are unfilled, the Negro city remains a place where a great many people struggle in poverty and obedience to the harsh law of joyless labor and the futility of illusions.
Examining the historiographic, epistemological, and ideological factors that prompted Balandier to such totalizing, pathos-laden pronouncements might constitute at least an article in its own right. This article explores the juncture outlined by Fabian; it has been written from a vantage foregrounding the existence of creative, resistive, and synthetic processes within African mass and subordinate cultures. The material culture that developed around the sport, and its role in shaping gender relations, are among the themes that it would be crucial to address in a more extensive study.
The present article is not meant as an encompassing account of the urban football culture. It has sought rather to disentangle and specify some of the shared feelings and ideas football responded to or animated in a particular colonial African setting. It explores both how football came to be seen as a compelling activity for players and observers and how the sport was made to be increasingly compelling by the same subjects over the colonial period. Sport, Identity, and Ethnicity Oxford: Berg, Douglass Garman London: Andre Deutsh, They differed considerably from one another.
Ba-Kongo constituted only twenty-one percent of the residents of Poto-Poto, which was about twice as large demographically and topographically as Bacongo. The majority of Poto-Poto residents had arrived from diverse parts of the northern portions of French Equatorial Africa.
Poto-Poto and Bacongo were separated by about four kilometers, the former lying about a kilometer northeast of the colonial administrative center, the latter approximately three kilometers to the southwest. All names not in quotations—Steamboat, Hammer, etc. The italicized items are transcribed from Ba-Kongo. See his Sociology and Psychology: Essays , trans. Ben Brewster London: Routledge, , Technical styles rejecting colonial mimicry survived the radical technical and tactical transformations…The contemporary black working class aesthetic continued to place more value on the cleverness and beauty of feinting and dribbling.
These stylish moves elated audiences and, at the same time, symbolized the cultural importance of knowing how to get around difficulties and dangerous opponents in an oppressive society with creativity, deception, and skill. Innis ed. Martin, Leisure and Society , This relation is one of both separation or detachment of sociability from mundane social forms, and the transformation of seemingly unimportant aspects of the mundane world into the very meaning of sociable situations.
His current research focuses on a series of conflicts centered on youth, nationalism, ethnicity, and cultural politics in revolutionary and post-revolutionary Guinea. His other research and teaching interests include popular culture, pedagogy, post-socialism, and ideologies of development. Ohio University. Van Wing to explain the relationship of name and person among the Ba-Kongo and other ethnic groups of the Congo region: The name is not a simple label. Addressing the almost spontaneous positive appraisal of football in the Pool region, Martin writes: Western sports were new in their structure, in their plethora of rules, and their time frame which reflected the industrial society in which they were born.
Rules In The Tao of Cricket , Ashis Nandy describes parallels between conceptions of fate implicit within the British practice of cricket and those found at the core of many heroic narratives within Hindu mythology.
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