A team is distinct from other social bonds as the unifying element is the shared pursuit of a common goal, whether it be winning a World Cup, achieving a scientific breakthrough, or winning an election. Often, however, the relationship between teammates, their leaders, and their supporters extends far beyond the mere pursuit of a goal. A team quickly becomes a microcosm of broader societal phenomena, as issues such as power, gender, race, sexuality, and class come into play. Individual vs. collective, collaboration vs. competition, offense vs. defense, success vs. failure, inclusion vs. exclusion––when we become part of a team, we learn to negotiate a number of contrasting conditions. Teams rely on complex algorithms and alchemies and when properly designed, expertly trained, and wholeheartedly inspired, they are greater than the sum of their parts. This Salon explores the ways in which they can simultaneously function as mirrors of society and means to change it for the better.
We will pose the following questions: How does participation in required team sports affect a child’s development in both positive and negative ways? How do team sports reinforce societal and gendered norms? In what ways can they instead be used to challenge those norms? What does it mean to be a good team player, within and without sports? How do our experiences as a part of teams impact our subsequent social relations? Should we adopt a more team-centric outlook in our daily lives, prioritizing collective over individual goals? How does the participation in or the watching of sports contribute to the formation of our individual identities?
This Salon took place on October 16, 2023
Tracie Canada is an assistant professor of cultural anthropology and affiliated with the Sports & Race Project at Duke University. As a Black feminist anthropologist and ethnographer, her work uses sport to theorize race, kinship, care, and gender. In her first book project, under contract with University of California Press, Dr. Canada analyzes the performing athletic body to reveal how processes of injury, violence, and care impact the everyday lived experiences of Black college football players. An overall goal of her ethnographic research is to recenter not only what we consider to be anthropological knowledge, but also who we consider to be academic and public knowledge producers. Because she is committed to bringing current social, political, and popular culture events into the intellectual conversation, she founded and directs the HEARTS Lab. This innovative intellectual environment will engage scholars, fans, athletes, and writers to integrate academic and public audiences who are not usually in conversation about sport. In addition to her academic publications, Dr. Canada is a public writer who has contributed essays to outlets like Scientific American, SAPIENS, and Black Perspectives.
Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas Professor at the New School for Social Research. His books include Very Little…Almost Nothing (1997), Infinitely Demanding (2007), The Book of Dead Philosophers (2009) and The Faith of the Faithless (2012). He has also written a novella, Memory Theatre (2015), a book-length essay, Notes on Suicide (2020) and studies of David Bowie, Football and Apply-Degger (Onassis, 2020). More recent books are Tragedy, The Greeks and Us (Pantheon, 2019) and Bald (Yale, 2021). He was series moderator of “The Stone,” a philosophy column in The New York Times and co-editor of three volumes connected to the series, most recently Question Everything (2022).He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Onassis Foundation and also 50% of an obscure musical combo called Critchley & Simmons. A book called Mysticism will be published by The New York Review of Books in 2024.
Gabriel Fontana is an independent designer and creative director. Drawing on a social design framework, his work explores how ideologies shape movements and vice versa. Through using performative and participatory methodologies, he positions design as a social practice. With this approach, he investigates how our bodies propagate, internalize and reproduce social norms. He proposes ways that this can be unlearned through new forms of pedagogy, activities and games that deconstruct group dynamics.
Sport and physical education have been his main field of research for the past five years. In this context, Gabriel develops alternative team sport games that reinvent sport as a queer pedagogy. With this method, he developed Multiform (2019) for the municipality of Rotterdam; an educational program for primary and secondary schools that contributes to inclusive physical education. More recently, Gabriel launched the Tournament of the Unknown (2022), a tournament series that reimagine togetherness.
Working towards a more inclusive future, his work infiltrates multiple layers of society through three specific sectors: education, culture and the sports industry. His games have been played in schools across Europe, at Nike World Headquarters (US) and in various museums such as MAC/VAL (FR), W139 Amsterdam (NL), Design Milan Week (IT) amongst others.
Bobbito Garcia is a radio host, filmmaker and basketball enthusiast whose voice and passion guided an entire generation. As one half of the Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito Show, broadcasted out of Columbia University’s WKCR weekly between 1990 and 1998, Bobbito helped to launch the careers of hip-hop legends like Nas, the Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z and Big Pun. But while the man also known as Kool Bob Love is often remembered for his contributions to hip-hop culture, his reputation goes beyond: He has also served eminently behind the scenes, via his vinyl-only imprint Álala Records, as a b-ball pro for ESPN, and most recently as a documentary maker and producer.
Collette V. Smith is the NFL’s first black female coach as well as the NY Jets’ first female coach. She formerly played football professionally for the NY Sharks. She has since founded Believe N You, Inc., which strives to empower young African American women across the country. Collette V Smith is an Ambassador for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Collette, a survivor herself, is a pioneer in the movement on empowering women and how we can change the world if we continue to use our voices to make positive change.
Ben Carrington is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the sociology of race, politics and popular culture. Prior to joining USC Annenberg, Carrington taught in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin for 13 years, and before that he worked at the University of Brighton in England. He is also a visiting Carnegie research fellow at Leeds Beckett University. Outside of USC Annenberg, Carrington holds courtesy appointments with USC’s Department of Sociology and the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity.
Brenda Elsey is an American historian commonly known for researching about topics of History of Latin America such as politics, football or gender roles. Since 2008, she has been the co-director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies program at Hofstra University.
Sergio Galaz-García is a Juan de la Cierva postdoctoral fellow in the Social Sciences Department at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and a member of the Juan March Institute for social research. He received his PhD in Sociology from Princeton University. Prior to joining UC3M, he held visiting professor and postdoctoral fellowships at Collegio Carlo Alberto, the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE), in Mexico City, and the University of Lisbon. Before finishing his Ph.D., he studied a Masters in Architecture at MIT and a BA in Political Science at Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) in Mexico City.
Christopher J. Phillips is a historian of science and of twentieth-century America, currently teaching as Associate Professor in Carnegie Mellon’s History Department. He is also the Director of Graduate Studies for the doctoral program. His research focuses on the history of science, particularly statistics and mathematics. He is interested in the authority and expertise claimed for scientific practices and mathematical methods across modern U.S. history and most of his projects involve the spread of mathematical and numerical methods into new domains.
Maggie Popkin is Robson Junior Professor and Associate Professor of Art History in the Department of Art History and Art at Case Western Reserve University. She is the author of The Architecture of the Roman Triumph: Monuments, Memory, and Identity (Cambridge, 2016) and numerous articles on Greek and Roman art and architecture. She has received fellowships from the Fulbright Organization and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome.
Sayuri Guthrie Shimizu is a historian of the United States’ relations with the wider world, with a particular emphasis on US-East Asian relations since the mid 19th century. My research interests, cutting across historiographical and national boundaries, include the history of U.S.-Japanese relations, comparative colonialism, the transpacific world, sports in international relations, and global governance. My current book project examines the rise and transformation of international ocean resource (particularly fisheries) management regimes in the North Pacific in the first half of the 20th century.
Carlin Wing is an Assistant Professor in the Intercollegiate Department of Media Studies at Scripps College. She earned her AB in Visual and Environmental Studies and Social Anthropology at Harvard University, her MFA in Photography and Media at CalArts, and her PhD in Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU. Her areas of interest include media and communication; science and technology; material culture; globalization; performance; disability; and play, games, and sport.
Senior Lecturer Emma Witkowski joined the RMIT University Games Program in 2013. She has written widely on the area of esports and networked high performance computer game cultures, especially esports as media sports, gender and game cultures, mega-events and LANs, public play and live-performance (live streaming) embodiment and materiality, and digital/sensory ethnography and qualitative methods. More specifically, she is interested in how expertise in high performance networked computer game play (esports) is formed and performed from individual, interactional, and institutional frames of relational practice.
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COMING OF AGE
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SPORTS AND RACE
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SPORTS AND GENDER
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