For my final research post, I wanted to share a bit about one of the most important parts of my project: to conduct both interviews and participant observation with a Bolivian soccer league in Buenos Aires. As with much of my research, where exactly this would take place depended much on the contacts I made and where they led me. Dr. Manuel Cervantes at FUNCRUSUR connected me with Augustin Flores, who brought me to two different parks: Parque Avellaneda y Parque Roca. My first day there, I talked with several “mesas de directores,” where the league leaders keep the paperwork and such. The first day, I completed some general interviews about basic organizational structures and took a lot of pictures.
Me with Rigoberto (committee leader) and Pedro (president) of the Asociacion Deportiva Guaqui.
Two weeks later, I returned to the Parque Avellaneda to talk more formally with the president and committee leader of the Asociacion Deportiva Guaqui, Pedro and Rigoberto. The Asociacion Deportiva Guaqui (ADQ) includes mainly members from the town of Guaqui near Lake Titicaca, following the normal pattern of groups made up of individuals from the same region of Bolivia. Continue reading
Benedict Anderson, best known as the author of Imagined Communities, asserts that newspapers can provide the “technical means for ‘re-presenting’ the kind of imagined community” that an immigrant community has created – in terms of my project, that the Bolivian community has created in Buenos Aires. Therefore, one of the facets of my research is to analyze the newspapers that are created for and by the Bolivian community to determine how they cover and describe sports. However, as most things tend to happen, this hasn’t gone exactly how I had planned. (Foreshadowing: it’s been better!)
First, I came to Buenos Aires with a list of about six Bolivian newspapers that I had found by scouring the web for mentions of them (as many don’t have an online presence). Upon arriving and speaking with Dr. Manuel Cervantes, he informed me that all but two of them were out of business. Luckily, he just so happened to be on the editorial board of one of those two (funny how these connections work!) so he set me up with a meeting with another editor. A few days before that interview, I googled Bolivia Unida and came up with not only their website, but their facebook page. The most recent post immediately caught my attention – there was going to be an academic conference at the Universidad Nacional de San Martin entitled “Seminar about Migrations, Cultural Identity, and Human Rights: The Actuality of Immigrants in Argentina.” Oh hey! That’s precisely what I’m looking at! I scrambled to fill out the registration form (this is around 11pm on Wednesday night, and the conference was on Friday) and prepared myself for my first international conference.
One of the things that I love the most about my thesis topic is the reaction I get to the inevitable “so, what are you writing your thesis on?” question. When this question is asked by a professor or fellow grad student, I have a slightly longer response prepared, but when it’s asked by a casual acquaintance, my first answer is simply: “Soccer.”
I first started playing soccer when I was three years old; while I was never the fastest (by far) or the most skilled at footwork, I continued to play and love the sport through high school and onto college (and grad school!) intramural teams. I attended the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, obsessively follow Spain as a national team and Barcelona as a club, and yet had never really considered studying fútbol in a more academic way until I started at NYU. As it turns out, soccer is heavily studied by various academic fields – sociology, anthropology, history, ethnic studies, and even mathematics (statistical analysis), economics (the sport brings in billions of dollars worldwide), and science (does heading a soccer ball damage your brain? Are successful soccer players better thinkers than non-players?). For a sport that originated in mid 19th century Britain, it has spread across the world remarkably, and it would be hard to imagine modern-day Spain, Brazil, or Argentina without also picturing their fervent dedication to club teams, national teams, and the sport at large.
The research I’m doing while in Buenos Aires, then, somehow managed to work its way from “I want to go to South America and talk about soccer” to my current working research question: “With full awareness of the implications of the intersection of race, nationality, identity, and soccer within the Bolivian community in Buenos Aires, how and to what extent does this particular immigrant population use soccer to either negotiate integration into the local society or to sustain their distinct ethnic identity?” In brief, I hope to use soccer as a lens to understand the issues of transnationalism, migration, and discrimination that inevitably arise in this context. Continue reading