Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Storyworlds of European Soccer in Eldoret, Kenya

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Storyworlds of European Soccer in Eldoret, Kenya

Article excerpt


European soccer fandom is perhaps one of the most recent additions to the repertoire of popular culture of Africa south of the Sahara. A number of studies have investigated the socio-cultural implications of this relatively new phenomenon, and among others include, Solomon Waliaula, (2015b, 2015a, and 2012), Godwin Siundu 2011, Richard Vokes 2010, Gerard Akindes 2010, Olaoluwa and Adejayan (2010), AyokunleOlumuyiwaOmobowale (2009) and Leah Komakoma (2005). One could argue that these studies seem to agree on at least two aspects in the evolution of this cultural practice. First, the fandom identities hailed in this experience is associated to the influence of media on television audiences and secondly, this media encounter is also a cultural encounter. However, the studies differ in their interpretation of this media/cultural encounter.

The differences range between two positions. On the one end we have the media/cultural imperialist oriented perspectives that consider the fandom experience as an index of the use of transnational media to skew the construction of identities in ways that resonate with what Akindes has termed as 're-colonization'. On the other end we have 'fandom-as-cultural-agency', perspective that considers this fandom experience as creatively adapted to the immediate contexts, a process that has been described by Olaoluwa and Adejayan - in relation of the South Western Nigeria experience - as 'the audacity of fandom', (2010, p81). This article traces this audacity of fandom to the context of fandom talk that is embedded in the ordinary social interaction among members of this fandom community. It focuses on one individual fan called Geoffrey Ogendi that considers himself a die-hard fan of the English football club Arsenal and also an 'expert' on European soccer. This practice is compared to an oral performance and Ogendi compared to an oral narrator. It is a comparison made against the background of a number of concepts drawn from selected theories and perspectives of media practice, popular culture and oral performance. In doing so, the article aligns itself to the fandom-as-culturalagency perspective. We argue that Ogendi and his audiences engage in a process of cultural production. Secondly, the cultural production is located in a sort of middle ground between the reality of soccer matches mediated on transnational television and the narrative reconstruction of the said soccer matches.

Research questioning of this practice is made in a number of contexts. First, this phenomenon is perceived in relation to contemporary dynamics of sportmedia and, in this sense, Ogendi and his audiences are in the words of Elizabeth Bird (2010, p.85), defined as a mediated audiences. Secondly, considering that Ogendi dominates conversations based on a theme that is fairly well known, we investigate his practice in view of Richard Bauman's (1977) argument that performance could also be perceived as a display of communicative competence.

Bauman adds that audiences do not enjoy the thematic substance in itself but the intrinsic qualities of the act of expression, (p.11). This paper perceives these 'intrinsic qualities' using the concept of narrative framing as has been developed by, among others, Lee Harving (2004, pp.229-245), Hayden White (1984, pp1-33) and Harold Scheub (1975, pp.353-377). The main point drawn from these is that the narrative quality of a performance is sustained by a distinct and socially approved manner of expression that draws on modes of verbal artistic expression. I argue that Ogendi employs artistic frames of narrative emplotment and imagery to attract and sustain audiences.

The third question relates to the definition of this form in the context of both mainstream media and oral narrative. The paper perceives Ogendi's art in the context of what John Fiske's (1992, pp. 30-49) concept of enunciative production, which in his view is the outcome of media audience communication of their interpretation of media texts. …

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