The Football World Cup for Smart People – 1

June 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Now that the serious fun starts at the World Cup, with qualifying groups almost over (at least for England!) and “win or go home” games about to start, I’ll be compiling here a list of “serious” (but fun!) readings about the World Cup for people who want to sound smart while enjoying their football (hint: don’t scream “what a shot!” at the TV screen, but remark snidely “this is like watching porn!”). I will be looking, you’ve guessed it, for scholarly writing with bite.

This list will attempt to round up the scholarly market on writings dealing with the Football World Cup as media event, in line with my interest in media ethnography and cultural history, ancient and current. Is there, then, a way out of the postmodern domination of the ‘image’ that media scholarship of sports events warns against at regular episodes (more on this below)? Anything else happening in the mediatisation of the World Cup but a shallow pre-fabricated hollowed-out consumption spectacle? Where is the power of the game in all this media analysis?

In the spirit of fair play and competition, I will attempt to produce as complete a list as possible by the time it takes this World Cup to reach the Final on July 13 (which will be Brazil vs. Argentina, as you probably know UPDATE JULY 9: Oops, 7-1..). Think of this post, then, as an on-going, though very short-term, bibliographic enquiry.

Think of it, too, if you wish, as a game:

  • the pitch: the football World Cup in media studies;
  • the time: play will take place during the next 2 weeks and a half — and no water break every 30-minute sort of nonsense, no sirree;
  • rules: anything not on the World Cup of football is offside (sorry no general studies on football–for more smart readings on football and the World Cup, check issue 13 of The Blizzard, h/t Put Niels in Goal);  any lazy intellectualising is a straight red card, so is jargonizing;
  • a referee: me!
  • number of players: hmm, potentially, limitless.

And, yes, contributions, as usual, are most welcome :-).

To build this list, I have notably used Steve Redhead, Post-Fandom and the Millenial Blues: The Transformation of Soccer Culture, and his list of scholarly writings (as of 1997 then), John Turnbull, The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (2009) ; The Guardian in 2008, and the blog The global game: football as second language maintained by John Turnbull of Columbia University between 2003 and 2010.

First up: Umberto Eco’s 1978 essay on “The World Cup and Its Pomp”, and who better than a French philosopher to make sense of a French football player losing his head at a World Cup Final?

Still to come…:

John Williams, “Sport, Postmodernism and Global TV”, Postmodern Studies no. 9, 1993 — Edward Buscombe ed. Football on Television London: BFI, 1975 (TV programs as not so much records of events but rather as social constructs) — Nowell-Smith, “Television-Football-the World”, Screen 19.4, 1978/9 — Umberto Eco (again), “How Not To Talk Football”, 1990 — Alan Clarke, Justin Wren-Lewis, “The World Cup–a political football”, Theory, Culture and Society 1.3, 1983 — Tomlinson, Whannel, Off the Ball: The Football World Cup, London: Pluto Press, 1986, notably Christine Geraghty, Philip Simpson, “Tunnel Vision: television’s World Cup” — Chris Berry, on watching the Korea World Cup on public screens in China…


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