CBS professor Mariann Vaczi presented her current research at the 117th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. The title of her presentation was “Catalonia`s Human Towers: Nationalism, Associational Culture, and the Politics of Performance” focusing on the political deployment of physical culture in the current Catalan sovereignty process. Vaczi`s current research project is based on 1,5 years of fieldwork as a human tower performer in Barcelona, and draws parallels between alternative routes to nationalist mobilization through sport in the Basque and Catalan contexts. The panel, titled “Commemorating and coming to terms with the past” was chaired by James Deutsch from the Smithsonian Institution, which hosted both Basque and Catalan cultural projects at their summer festivals.
Dr. Vaczi`s anthropological work focuses on the interfaces of sport, politics, culture and society in the Basque and Catalan contexts. Her main work Soccer, culture and society in Spain: An ethnography of Basque fandom (Routledge 2015) gained positive critical acclaim internationally, and is now being translated into Spanish.
“Spanish soccer is on top of the world, at international and club level, with the best teams and a seemingly endless supply of exciting and stylish players. While the Spanish economy struggles, its soccer flourishes, deeply embedded throughout Spanish social and cultural life. But the relationship between soccer, culture and national identity in Spain is complex. This fascinating, in-depth study shines new light on Spanish soccer by examining the role this sport plays in Basque identity, consolidated in Athletic Club of Bilbao, the century-old soccer club located in the birthplace of Basque nationalism.
Athletic Bilbao has a unique player recruitment policy, allowing only Basque-born players or those developed at the youth academies of Basque clubs to play for the team, a policy that rejects the internationalism of contemporary globalised soccer. Despite this, the club has never been relegated from the top division of Spanish football. A particularly tight bond exists between fans, their club and the players, with Athletic representing a beacon of Basque national identity. This book is an ethnography of a soccer culture where origins, nationalism, gender relations, power and passion, lifecycle events and death rituals gain new meanings as they become, below and beyond the playing field, a matter of creative contention and communal affirmation.
Based on unique, in-depth ethnographic research, this book investigates how a soccer club and soccer fandom affect the life of a community, interweaving empirical research material with key contemporary themes in the social sciences, and placing the study in the wider context of Spanish political and sporting cultures. Filling a key gap in the literature on contemporary Spain, and on wider soccer cultures, this book is fascinating reading for anybody with an interest in sport, anthropology, sociology, political science, or cultural and gender studies.” Routledge, 2015