The I in Team: Sports Fandom and the Reproduction of Identity

 [Forthcoming 2017, The University of Chicago Press]

Why does sports fandom matter so much to fans, who often don’t play the games they watch at all?  In this book, I conduct a philosophical investigation of sports fandom, working across the fields of feminist philosophy, critical philosophy of race, and philosophy of sport, and in dialogue with the work of sociologists, anthropologists, and historians of sport and popular culture. Sports fandom, I conclude, is a primary means of creating and reinforcing individual and community identities for Americans today, contributing both to communities’ persistence over time, and to the racial and gender hierarchies that characterize those communities.  Sports fandom is a practice of subjectivization: a means by which individuals are both regulated and, at the same time, achieve a sense of their own identities.  Sports fandom matters, then, because it is one of the primary ways that we tell ourselves who we are--and just as importantly, who we are not.

By analyzing fan practice, history, and discourse (especially in the American south), and by responding to contemporary philosophical and social scientific work on sports fans, I argue that racial whiteness is reproduced in and through many white fans’ imaginative relation to and ritualized display of people of color, and that normative heterosexual masculinity is reproduced through the practices of sports fandom that more or less explicitly disparage femininity and homosexual desire.  Yet, I also conclude that sports fandom is not uniformly oppressive; sports fans are not univocal, and there are marginal forms of sports fandom that constitute genuine glimmers of social resistance.  

I completed this project as a result of the generous support of Emory's University Research Committee.  I have presented and published pieces of this project in a few different venues.  Most recently, I have given a talk entitled "The Moral Equivalent of Football" at the 2015 European Pragmatism Conference, a presentation on why feminists should care about sports fandom (at PhiloSOPHIA Feminist Society 2014), and an invited lecture on the usage of Native American mascots in colloquia at the University of Oregon and at UNC Charlotte's Center for Applied and Professional Ethics.  One piece of the project, a paper that uses Foucault's later work on the discursive construction of criminality and danger to analyze the Michael Vick dogfighting case, was published in Culture, Theory and Critique, and another, "On the Particular Racism of Native American Mascots," was published this year in Critical Philosophy of Race

Feminist Interpretation of William James (with Shannon Sullivan)

Before the advent of standpoint theory, William James argued for pragmatic account of knowledge and truth that put the situated, embodied subject at its center, and insisted on revaluing the affective dimensions of experience.  As many have argued, James's work is thus ripe with resources for feminist philosophies, even if James himself did not recognize this.  This volume is part of Pennsylvania State University Press's Rereading the Canon series, and is available now!