Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Who the Heck Is Don Bradman? Sport Culture and Social Class in British Columbia, Canada *

Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Who the Heck Is Don Bradman? Sport Culture and Social Class in British Columbia, Canada *

Article excerpt

FEW BRITISH COLUMBIANS, it seems, have heard of Don Bradman. Fewer yet know that Bradman (1908-2001), a national sporting hero in Australia, was knighted by the Queen of England for service to the game of cricket and was possibly the best batsman to ever play the game. This despite the fact that Bradman and the Australian Test Side visited Vancouver in 1932 on a cricket tour of North America (doubling as Bradman's honeymoon) where the Australian Test Side soundly defeated a team from the local Cowichan Club in an exhibition match on the Brockton Point ground in Stanley Park. Bradman never forgot Vancouver, later remarking, "I have said on many occasions, and I am glad to repeat that, in my opinion, the Brockton Point ground is the prettiest upon which it has been my pleasure to play." (1)

This article seeks to establish whether the practice and consumption of sports culture--including familiarity with the late Australian cricketer Don Bradman--reflects social class groupings in British Columbia. The analysis is predicated upon the supposition, adopted from the French social theorist Pierre Bourdieu (1978; 1984; 1998), that cultural tastes, preferences and practices (perhaps including those pertaining to sport) can be implicated in the delineation of social class boundaries. After describing the theoretical underpinnings of the analysis, the article reviews the small body of quantitative research that explicitly employs Bourdieu's depiction of capitals to explain variability in sport culture. Next, utilizing data from an original questionnaire survey of the general public in British Columbia, the article describes multivariate statistical relationships between Bourdieu's notions of economic capital, cultural capital and social capital (important forms of power in social space that potentially structure and define cultural tastes and practices), Erik Olin Wright's scheme of "contradictory class positions" (distinctions located in workplaces pertaining to economic ownership, control over budgets and personnel, personal autonomy, job skill and manual labour), and sports culture (in the form of sports knowledge and participation in sporting activities). The analysis also identifies potential interactions between gender and class in the manifestation of sport culture. Intended to contribute to the growing body of sport and social class literature based in Canada (e.g., Donnelly, 1995; Donnelly and Harvey, 1999; Gruneau, 1976; 1999; Kidd, 1994; White and Wilson, 1999), this article represents a speculative exploration of the degree to which sports culture reflects and maintains boundaries between social classes in the province of British Columbia, Canada.

Bourdieu presented insights into the nature of relationships between social class and sporting practices in a prominent article from 1978, introducing ideas that would receive further treatment in Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1984) and Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action (1998). In these publications, Bourdieu argued that cultural tastes and activities are patterned by complex social phenomena--they most certainly are not the result of arbitrary judgements about beauty, pleasure and enjoyment made by autonomous individuals. For Bourdieu, cultural tastes and practices are located in a multidimensional social space, "a set of distinct and coexisting positions which are exterior to one another and which are defined in relation to one another through their mutual exteriority and their relations of proximity, vicinity, or distance" (Bourdieu, 1998: 6). This set of relationally-defined positions serves to manifest social classes engaged in struggle, wherein cultural tastes and dispositions are used by classes in social space to maintain and reinforce their position of ascendancy in the struggle. Thus the elite class uses the power of its position to define "sophisticated" or "cultured" tastes (highbrow tastes) and then utilizes privileged access to these cultural forms to maintain class boundaries. …

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