Via the Shanghaiist
The Shanghaist reports that after gracing the cover of the Chinese Sports Illustrated, Bonzi Wells was released by his CBA team Shanxi Zhongyu. It’s nice to have confirmation that curses can cross cultures.
While we’re reading Horace Miner’s classic Nacirema essay, here is more for you to think about.
First, peruse Alan Dundes’ essay “Into the Endzone for a Touchdown: A Psychoanalytic Consideration of American Football” (To get to this link, you need to have access to JSTOR – i.e., you need to be on the Davidson College network). Dundes is not an anthropologist (he is a folklorist), but compare his discussion to what Miner and Rosaldo are saying in our readings for class.
In his classic symbolic analysis of football, Alan Dundes makes an argument that American football is essentially a form of homosexual behavior: “The unequivocal sexual symbolism of the game, as plainly evidenced in folk speech coupled with the fact that all of the participants are male, make it difficult to draw any other conclusion. Sexual acts carried out in thinly disguised symbolic form by, and directed towards, males and males only, would seem to constitute ritual homosexuality” (Dundes 1978: 87). He gets to this conclusion by looking at the idioms and metaphors of football – the way the sport is talked about by people. Here are some examples of his approach:
The object of the game, simply stated, is to get into the opponent’s endzone while preventing the opponent from getting into one’s own endzone. Structurally speaking, this is precisely what is involved in male verbal dueling. One wishes to put one’s opponent down; to “screw” him while avoiding being screwed by him. We can now better understand the appropriateness of the “bottom patting” so often observed among football players. A good offensive or defensive play deserves a pat on the rear end. The recipient has held up his end and has thereby helped protect the collective “end” of the entire team. One pats one’s teammates’ ends, but one seeks to violate the endzone of one’s opponents! (Dundes 1978:81)
The trust one has for one’s own teammates is perhaps signaled by the common postural stance of football players. The so-called three point stance involves bending over in a distinct stooped position with one’s rear end exposed. It is an unusual position (in terms of normal life activities) and it does make one especially vulnerable to attack from behind, that is, vulnerable to a homosexual attack. In some ways, the posture might be likened to what is termed “presenting” among nonhuman primates. Presenting refers to a subordinate animal’s turning its rump towards a higher ranking or dominant one. (Dundes 1978:81)
Even academics with presumably less personal investment in football will probably find the idea implausible if not downright repugnant that American football could be a ritual combat between groups of males attempting to assert their masculinity by penetrating the endzones of their rivals. (Dundes 1978:86)
1978. Into the Endzone for a Touchdown: A Psychoanalytic Consideration of American
Football. Western Folklore, 37(2 ):75-88.
What do you think? What would Miner or Rosaldo say about this?
OK, this was gratuitous, but in the future I will be posting my own thoughts or resources that are relevant to my classes. In our discussions, I sometimes have “throwaways” (comments that I don’t really finish, or citing of something that you haven’t heard of) – email me and I’ll explain such throwaways!
Today, I spent the afternoon watching the American pasttime, in Shanghai. Baseball, or 棒球(bangqiu) in Chinese, we know has spread throughout the world; in China, however, it’s not a very popular sport. [Read more…]