November is conference month, and Mariann gave two talks about her past and current ethnographic research interest in the anthropology and sociology of sport. First, she attended the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in Windsor (Ontario), where she presented her research project in a panel called “Strengths Matter: Framing Sport within a Strengths and Hope Perspective.” Mariann`s talk addressed the greatest challenge in the post-Franco era to Spain’s constitutional unity: the Catalonian independence movement, and its use of culture for nation building. The independence movement helped build support by using a 200-year-old folkloric sport, the building of human towers (castells). Mariann spent nearly two years in Catalonia between 2014-2016, joined one of the many local human tower teams, and helped build hundreds of towers. She found that the Catalan secessionist movement drew from the human towers’ performative iconicity, associational culture, and affective dimensions to rally disparate social groups behind independence. The operative values of human tower building (força, equilibri, valor i seny, “strength, balance, courage and common sense”), tower building metaphors like fer pinya “make a foundation,” and the sports ethos of collaboration for a common objective feature heavily at political events in the hope of building a new political community. Human towers visualize the strength of diverse individuals working towards a common objective. This talk reflected part of Mariann`s current research towards a comparative approach of Basque, Catalan and Scottish secessionism through sport and physical culture.
Next, Mariann gave a talk at the prestigious seminar series of the Scholar`s Program of Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her talk was titled “Anthropology of Sport: Themes and Perspectives,” and addressed her findings on Basque soccer and Catalan traditional sports. The seminar touched upon themes like ethnicity, identity, gender, politics, capitalism and globalization through the lenses of sport. The purpose of the presentation was to popularize anthropology as a discipline among these bright future scholars, and to emphasize its potential for researching modern western societies.