With God on Their Side: Sport in the Service of Religion

With God on Their Side: Sport in the Service of Religion

With God on Their Side: Sport in the Service of Religion

With God on Their Side: Sport in the Service of Religion


'Sport' and 'religion' are cultural institutions with a global reach. Each is characterised by ritualised performance and by the ecstatic devotion of its followers, whether in the sports arena or the cathedral of worship. This fascinating collection is the first to examine, in detail, the relationship between these two cultural institutions from an international, religiously pluralistic perspective. It illuminates the role of sport and religion in the social formation of collective groups, and explores how sport might operate in the service of a religious community. The book offers a series of cutting-edge contemporary historical case-studies, wide-ranging in their social and religious contexts. It presents important new work on the following fascinating topics: * sport and Catholicism in Northern Ireland * Shinto and sumo in Japan * women, sport and the American Jewish identity * religion, race and rugby in South Africa * sport and Islam in France and North Africa * sport and Christian fundamentalism in the US * Muhammad Ali and the Nation of Islam. With God on their Side is vital reading for all students of the history, sociology and culture of sport. It also presents important new research material that will be of interest to religious studies students, historians and anthropologists.


Sport, Islam and Amazigh consciousness in France and North Africa

Paul A. Silverstein

This chapter examines the construction of ethnic and religious subjectivities in post-colonial France and North Africa. It situates this production in the dynamics and dialectics of competition and collusion between various institutional actors (from the nation-state to local ethnic and religious organisations) for the control of the bodily practice and social reproduction of the region's citizen-subjects. In an ambivalent desire to 'integrate' the subject's racialised body into the unmarked national body politic, these institutions have largely engaged in a problematic metonymical operation by which the 'body' is understood to stand in for the transcendental individual subject, and the subject for the society as a whole. In particular, as this chapter argues, these efforts at national integration have been part of a double dialectic that positions two sets of social practice as mutually exclusive yet ultimately co-dependent: the first, religious - communal prayer and bodily adornment; the second, athletic - primarily soccer.

Moreover, the discourses and practices of national integration in France and North Africa have resulted in the creation of two sites - mosques and stadia - which carry opposite moral valences but which both exist as contested spaces for the production of particular infra-national subjectivities. Indeed, I argue that the desire and efforts to construct binary oppositions between Mosque and State have been ambivalent and have led to unintended consequences. This chapter demonstrates that, rather than being erased in the social reproduction of the French and North African nations, alternate categories of ethnic and religious belonging are continually mobilised by a variety of groups for the engendering of social totalities and hierarchies constituted largely through bodily practice. This chapter concludes by focusing on how these dynamics are played out in the construction of a transnational Berber (Amazigh) polity across the Mediterranean.

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