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2018-2 Sports & nationalism

Guest editors

  • Nuno Domingos, Instituto de Ciências Sociais

  • Victor Pereira, Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour

Yesterday celebrated as a future economic giant, a stabilized democracy and an emergent middle-class society, Brazil experiences a major economic and political crisis today. The impeachment of Dilma Rousseff during the summer 2016, and her substitution by the vice-president, Michel Temer, were interpreted by some as an “institutional coup” and by others as an answer to serious acts of corruption. The consecutive indictment of elected representatives who voted for the impeachment in name of public integrity led to a division, within the Brazilian political and civil societies, around the meaning of the procedure. Indeed, while many Parliament members and social groups supported the impeachment, demonstrations were organized in the country to denounce a process interpreted as a non-democratic seizure of power by the Brazilian right. Finally, the polarization of the political arena and the social space went hand in hand with an increasing judicialization of politics and conversely, the politicization of the judiciary [Engelmann, 2016].

Among the many resources available to the political and intellectual elites of many countries (or their aspiring groups) to spread a national feeling among the population, modern sports, born at the end of the 19th century, the period of industrialization, were used.

Several sports and international events (such as the modern Olympic Games, initiated in 1896) have served as a support for discourses - often antagonistic - around the nation. The sports practiced or the styles of play deployed were supposed to express the so-called national character, the qualities or defects of the nation. Unlike intellectual and political statements, these discourses that established links between sport and nation had the advantage of reaching a large part of the population, benefiting from media coverage and the appropriation of sports competitions by various economic actors. The British historian Eric Hobsbawm, who worked on nationalism in particular, summed up the importance of sport in the development of national sentiment: "What has made sport so uniquely effective medium for inculcating national feelings, at all events for males, is the ease with each the least political and public individuals can identify with the nation as symbolized by young persons excelling at what practically every man wants, or at one time in life has wanted, to be good at. The imagined community of millions seems more real when as team of eleven named people" (Hobsbawm 1990: 143). Sport, through sporting competitions that mobilize mascots, symbols, flags, national hymns - symbols and representations that are then projected on a large scale - is part of the "banal nationalism" mentioned by Michael Billig (1995): they render banal the different means of identification with the natural nation.

At the same time, the relationship between national narratives and sports practices obscures the functions and uses of sport as a means of identification in everyday life and as a mechanism of sociability. The lack of studies on the condition of the supporter and the hegemony of the use of official sources, mainly state archives, and of the press, contribute to the fact that the supporter's experience, which is much more versatile than is frequently claimed, is often subject to the logic of nationalist discourse. Supporters' acceptance of the national logic is most often thought to be obvious, obscuring other identifications and other ways of seeing sporting competitions.

The aim of this dossier is to extend the work that in recent years has emphasized the relationship between sports and nations in the Lusotopie area, mainly in Brazil (Leite Lopes & Faguer 1994, Drumond 2014), Cape Verde (Melo 2011.), Guinea Bissau (Melo 2015), São Tomé e Principe (Nascimento 2013), Angola (Bittencourt 2010), Mozambique (Domingos 2012, 2015, Cleveland 2013), India (Mills 2001, 2002) and Portugal (Coelho 2001, Neves 2004, Domingos & Kumar 2011, Pereira 2016, Kumar 2017). These studies reveal processes that are found in other territories (Singaravélou &, Sorez 2010, Archambault, Beaud, Gasparini 2016) and most often highlight football as the most popular sport in these countries.

The analysis of sports practices and consumptions is also fruitful in order to question the space of the Lusotopia, which in the twentieth century was defined by the domination of authoritarian regimes (the Portuguese and Imperial Estado Novo from 1933 to 1974 and the Brazilian Estado Novo from 1937 to 1945 and then a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985).

The analysis of football contains one of the ambiguities that we want to explore in this issue: how this sport, which has spread widely across many societies and represents for some authors an example of globalization through the circulation of images, players and the organization of international competitions, has been used to disseminate discourses on the nation and even nationalist ideologies. The creation of an imperial sport market interconnected by associativism and the press has encouraged the circulation of representations and identity ties which in some cases were articulated with the interests of States but which in other cases revealed a specific autonomy.

Associated with the development of a modern social configuration, sports, as Norbert Elias demonstrated, are focal points that allow us to grasp structural dynamics, such as the process of building the modern state, the evolution of social division of labor, the growth of associativism as a means of occupying leisure within the framework of urban societies.

Taken these perspectives into account, this issue will privilege three lines of research,

  • Nationalist uses and resistances: In what ways and in what context has nationalism become an instrument of political mobilization? In what way has it been established as a means of political management of everyday life, enshrined in laws and in the work of institutions? Conversely, how has sports nationalism, as a conflictual field of political conversion, was appropriated by movements opposed to power? How could sports be mobilized by the different movements advocating the independence of their territory? For territories that have become independent, how is sport used in the pedagogy of the nation? And what are the privileged sports to reveal the "national identity"?

  • Identity constructions and circulations: Since sports have encouraged the circulation of representations, players, coaches and techniques, how do they participate in the processes of identity constructions ("them" versus "us") that lie at the root of many nationalisms? Or, in a different way, how did they suggest an international imagination? In the context of the struggles for independence, to what extent is sport becoming one of the tools of integration within the international field? How did this nationalism reinforce or defy conceptions of nationality and ethnicity but also of gender - masculinity and femininity?

  • Major sporting events: Finally, modern sports have involved the organization of major international events, such as the Olympic Games. Taking up the analysis program proposed by Pierre Bourdieu (1994), it would be a matter of grasping the "process of symbolic transmutation" underway during these events where competition "takes place under the sign of universalist ideals" but it is marked by "a ritual, strongly national, if not nationalistic".

The authors who wish to propose an article are invited to send a summary of a page before December 15th, 2017 to
If the summary is accepted, complete articles are expected by April 15th, 2018.

Lusotopie publishes articles in French, Portuguese and English.

Archambault, F. Beaud S. & Gasparini W. eds. 2016, Le football des nations. Des terrains de jeu aux communautés imaginées, Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne : 51-74.
Billig, M. 1995, Banal Nationalism, Londres, Sage.
Bittencourt, M. 2010, « Jogando no campo do inimigo : futebol e luta política em Angola » in V. A. Melo, M. Bittencourt & A. Nascimento eds,
Mais do que um jogo : o esporte e o continente africano, Rio de Janeiro, Apicuri : 101-132.
Cleveland, T. 2013, « Following the Ball: African Soccer Players, Labor Strategies, and Emigration across the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1949–1975 » Cadernos de estudos africanos, 26 : 1–19.
Coelho, J. N. 2001, Portugal a equipa de todos nós. Nacionalismo, futebol e media, Porto, Afrontamento.
Domingos, N. 2012,
Futebol e colonialismo : corpos e cultura popular em Moçambique, Lisboa, Imprensa de Ciências Sociais.
Domingos, N. 2015,
As linguagens do futebol em Moçambique. Colonialismo e cultura popular, Rio de Janeiro, 7 letras.
Domingos, N. & Kumar, R. 2011, « A grande narrativa desportiva: o desporto nos média em Portugal », in J. Neves & N. Domingos eds.,
Uma história do desporto em Portugal, t. I, Corpo, espaços e média, Vila do Conde, Quidnovi : 207-310.
Drumond, M. 2014,
Estado Novo e desporte : a política e o desporto em Getúlio Vargas e Oliveira Salazar (1930-1945), Rio de Janeiro, 7 Letras.
Hobsbawm, E. 1990, Nations and nationalism since 1780. Programme, myth, reality, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Kumar, R. 2017, A pureza perdida do desporto. Futebol no Estado Novo, Lisboa, Paquiderme.
Leite Lopes, J. S. & Faguer, J.-P. 1994, « L’invention du style brésilien. Sport, journalisme et politique », Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 103 : 27-35.
Melo, V. A. 2011, Jogos de identidade. O desporte em Cabo Verde, Rio de Janeiro, Apicuri.
Melo, V. A. 2015,
A Nação em Jogo: Esporte e Guerra Colonial na Guiné Portuguesa (1961-1974), Rio de Janeiro, PPGHC/UFRJ.
Mills, J. 2001, « Football in Goa: Sport, Politics and the Portuguese in India », Soccer & Society, 2 (2) : 75-88.
Mills, J. 2002, « 
Colonialism, Christians and Sport: The Catholic Church and Football in Goa, 1883-1951 », Football Studies, 5 (2) : 11-26.
Nascimento, A. 2013, Desporto em vez de política no São Tomé e Príncipe colonial, Rio de Janeiro, 7 Letras.
Neves, J. 2004, « O eterno fado dos últimos trinta metros. Futebol, nacionalismo e corpo », in J. Neves & N. Domingos eds., A época do futebol. O jogo visto pelas ciências sociais, Lisboa, Assírio & Alvim : 102-141.
Pereira, V. 2016, « La
Selecção portugaise, entre dictature, propagande coloniale et horizon européen », in F. Archambault, S. Beaud & W. Gasparini eds, Le football des nations. Des terrains de jeu aux communautés imaginées, Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne : 51-74.
Singaravélou, P. & Sorez, J. eds. 2010, L’empire des sports. Une histoire de la mondialisation culturelle, Paris, Belin.

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