Sport Is Neither Solely a Vehicle for Cultural Homogeneity nor a Medium for National Resistance; It Is Both. Discuss Giving Examples of Sports Role in Both Globalisation Processes and the Reproduction of National Identities.

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The essay title alludes to the fact that sport has been used as a vehicle for both cultural homogeneity and national resistance. Cultural homogeneity is when people/nations embrace the same culture (‘the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively’) (Allen, 1990, p.282) throughout the nation/world. National resistance is when people within a nation (‘an imagined community based on ...race, ethnicity, language, religion (etc)’ (Jarry and Jarry, 2000, p. 403) oppose the majority or authority ideology. Globalisation in the essay will be defined as ‘the key idea of one single world or human society, in which all regional, national and local elements are tied together in the interdependent whole’’ (Holton, 1998, cited in Bairner, 2001, pp. 6) and will follow the ‘transformationalist theory’ that globalisation is caused by multiple factors (Hargreaves in Sugden and Tomlinson, 2002; Brookes, 2002). National identity is the way in which a nation wants to be recognised by its own members and others. The essay will discuss how sport is used to demonstrate these in particular reference to cultural imperialism, cultural change, politics, national identity and international relations, and finally commercialism.

During British cultural imperialism, sports were taught as a method of educating colonies to reproduce British values and national identities and thus sport was used as a vehicle for cultural homogeneity (Stoddart, 2006). For example, to encourage Nigerian Unity to the British Crown, ‘Empire Days’ were held which had a sporting focus (Bairner, 2001). However, even though sports were accepted and played, the rules were changed so that countries could put their own national twist on these sports and avoid hegemony and the British hopes of cultural homogenisation throughout the empire (Barnier, 2001).

From a Marxist perspective, the colonising British (bourgeoisie) used sport to establish social and political unity because it distracted the colonies (the proletariat) from the injustices in their lives caused by colonisation. Sport was embraced by the colonies themselves because it was seen by them as apolitical, i.e during sport the class structure was not so evident. However Paul Buhle (cited in Hughson, 1998) suggests that although cricket proved to be the civilising agent in the Caribbean colonies it was in turn also used by them for national resistance. This was initially achieved through a different style of play and secondly and more importantly, through superior play by the colonial teams compared with their British counterparts. The West Indies also used their cricketing success against the British ‘as a symbol of their emerging independence and autonomy in relation to one of the countries that colonised their homelands in the past’ (Coakley, 2001, p. 395). These examples demonstrate sport being used as both a vehicle for cultural homogeneity and varying levels of national resistance.

Houlihan (1994) argues that the impact of worldwide change to a sport by nations once under colonial influence is directly proportional to the size, wealth and power of that country. Poor dependent states affect on the worldwide view of the game is seen to be miniscule whereas the richer ex colonies such as Australia have had more impact. Continuing with the cricket example we can look at a number of changes to the sport since colonisation. The British cricketing authorities (MCC) had resisted change to the format and financials of the sport for many years. However Kerry Packer created a more highly paid commercialised alternative ‘Rebel Tour’ to which many of the best players turned to (Cashmore, 2000). Eventually the British establishment embraced the Packer format and the game moved forwards. Subsequent to that the Australians created one day cricket which has since spread throughout cricketing nations. Again the British Authorities had missed the need for change to a more modern game. More...
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