Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The 10th Annual Day Labor Cup, an Ethnography

Soccer, the World Unifier
Through the course of this semester I feel that I have faced two worlds which at first seemed different in many ways, however both also were in constant interplay; media studies (through visual culture) and anthropology. I have always thought of myself as an anthropologist with some postmodern leanings, but now I have been fascinated to learn a way to incorporate applied anthropology in cultural studies. By choosing to do an ethnography I was able to see the way these two field merge together and feed one another, enriching the value of the results.

As we worked on this project, one of the most important theories that influenced my involvement with the project was Appadurai’s theory of rupture. Perhaps one of the most relevant themes of our video centers on the effects of globalization, evident in the need for migration and for creating new communities. In the article titled Here and Now, Arjun Appadurai addresses the effects of globalization and the work of imagination in regards to the theory of rupture. A general rupture in the tenor of inter-societal relations in the past few decades, needs to be explicated and distinguished from some earlier theories of radical transformation. (p.173)
The problem with modernization theory is that it creates a dramatic and unprecedented break between past and present, this view has been shown to repeatedly distort the meaning of change and the politics of pastness.Theory of rupture takes media and migration as its two major, and interconnected, diacritics and explores their joint effect on the work of the imagination as a constitutive feature of modern subjectivity(p.174).
More specifically, Appadurai discusses the following two key elements:
1) Electronic media and the tension between the public spaces of cinema and the more exclusive spaces of video watching tend to interrogate, subvert, and transform other contextual literacies. Electronic mediation transforms preexisting worlds of communication and conduct.Our ethnography does precisely that, it mediates through electronic media a larger tension which exists between those who should not be seen, who are in a sense powerless due to their legal status, and those of us who inevitably have power and belong to a privileged group with the power of mediating and attempting to give others a voice through our own voice (yet a mediated voice).
2) Mass migrations juxtaposed with the rapid flow of mass-mediated images, scripts, and sensations, thus a new order of instability emerges in the production of modern subjectives. This can refer to the actual physical migration which many of these players and day laborers have endured or it can also speak of the migration of their presence in the mass-mediated images available now. The instability of their ever-so-vulnerable status which can only be aggravated through the production of images available on the internet. The question of visibility emerges and threatens their ability to return next year and be identified and persecuted by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

Additionally, Appadurai highlights the role of imagination and these distinctions in imagination in the postelectronic world which play a significant role. First, mediation; imagining the idea of migrating or traveling to other places. In this case, the day laborers imagined the possibility of a better life and through this dream they journeyed north, regardless of the seemingly impossibility of such journey. Secondly, and most appropriately for our ethnography, the distinction between the individual and collective senses of the imagination- a community of sentiment, a group that begins to imagine and feel things together. Film and video which create sodalities of worship, etc. like in sports. This is manifested in our video, the solidarity bonding of people from various nationalities, not only united by being day laborers or jornaleros, but more importantly, united through the passion for soccer. This is what has drawn us together, the merging point where we both our group and the so-called ‘other’ unite through our passion for soccer. Perhaps then we can say that through globalization, soccer has become a world unifier.


  1. The context and the split that occurs halfway through your piece is very intriguing to me. I am interested in the politics involved in the split and I think that the self-reflexivity of the second half remedies the ethical implications of the ethnographic, fly-on-the-wall strategy. I appreciated how you ended your piece with questions, with frictions.

  2. I love your discussion of rupture and then your really dramatic use of it in the video: you did see the discomfort ir produced and why shouldn't there be discomfort, the subjects you shoot have been made uncomfortable by migration! And yet, as you suggest, the rupture may pay off in a better life for individuals and families, what is the imaginitive pay off for your (video ethnography) rupture? Eisenstein would suggest that it is an idea.