Sport, Nation, Gender: Basque Soccer Madness
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A centenarian Basque soccer club, Athletic Club (Bilbao) is the ethnographic locus of this dissertation. From a center of the Industrial Revolution, a major European port of capitalism and the birthplace of Basque nationalism and political violence, Bilbao turned into a post-Fordist paradigm of globalization and gentrification. Beyond traditional axes of identification that create social divisions, what unites Basques in Bizkaia province is a soccer team with a philosophy unique in the world of professional sports: Athletic only recruits local Basque players. Playing local becomes an important source of subjectivization and collective identity in one of the best soccer leagues (Spanish) of the most globalized game of the world. This dissertation takes soccer for a cultural performance that reveals relevant anthropological and sociological information about Bilbao, the province of Bizkaia, and the Basques. Early in the twentieth century, soccer was established as the hegemonic sports culture in Spain and in the Basque Country; it has become a multi billion dollar business, and it serves as a powerful political apparatus and symbolic capital. This dissertation will explore the social, cultural and political dimensions of soccer in the Spanish Basque area, and explores the interfaces of soccer with globalization, identity construction, discourse, power, political ideologies and gender relations through the specific case of the Basque Athletic Club. Soccer is intimately embedded in Bilbao, and has consequences for macro and micro communities as well as individuals: it represents a people, an ethos, a morality; it structures people`s free time, daily interaction and relationships; it affects individual subjectivization. I argue that soccer culture offers fresh insight and new perspectives to the rich social scientific research on the Basques.