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Sport and the Nation

Sport and the Nation, International Conference, 19-20 January 2012

CAS, Department of English in collaboration with School of Media, Communication and Culture, Jadavpur University. Supported by University’s Merged Grant. Co-ordinated by Supriya Chaudhuri, Partha Pratim Bose, Abhijit Gupta. Conference Report:

The history of modern sport is intimately linked to the rise of the modern nation-state and its cultures of self-representation. Indeed, though games have existed as long as human beings have inhabited the earth, organized sport in the contemporary sense is thought to be a distinctive product of modernity. Enshrined in the curriculum of the Victorian public school and viewed as a means of training imperial administrators, sport also entered the public sphere as a spectacle for mass audiences, leading to a regulation of its practices and the foundation of sports bodies. The founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, was convinced that ‘organised sport can create both moral and social strength’, and international sporting spectacles became a means for displaying the health and self-discipline of individual nation-states. This ideology, imperial and European in its origin, was transmitted also to the colonised subjects of European imperialism. The postcolonial ideology of the nation invests heavily in sport as a means of national self-projection, while at the very same time, globalization and multinational capital have created a huge sports industry where highly-paid athletes compete in profit-making spectacles for a global audience. As a vital ingredient of contemporary culture, sport has produced a rich literature of its own, as well as representations in other media such as film. But sport may also be, as in India, a problematic constituent in the task of national self-construction: acknowledged but neglected, a focus of hope but also of disappointment. In 2012, as the world’s athletes prepare for yet another Olympic Games, we need to examine both gains and losses in national sporting histories. A two-day, Interdisciplinary International Conference on ‘Sport and the Nation’, was held at JadavpurUniversity, Kolkata, India, on 19-20 January 2011. Conference themes included sporting identities and cultures, the literature of sport, sporting nationalisms, gender, race and multiculturalism in sport, competition, spectacle, and globalized sport, and other related issues. Earlier conferences on linked themes have been held at the University of Leeds and the University of Paris – Sorbonne. We hope to build up an international collaborative research network in this field, between Jadavpur, Paris and Leeds.

Conference speakers included: Partha Chatterjee (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta): ‘Football and the Politics of Identity in Colonial Calcutta’; Alexis Tadié (Paris-Sorbonne): ‘Running for Freedom : the Politics of Long-distance Running in Modern Fiction’; Novy Kapadia (Delhi University): ‘India at the Olympics: What Ails Indian Sports’; Elisabeth Bass (George Washington University): ‘Questions for the “Twelfth Man”: Interrogating Gender and Class in Literary Cricket’; Kausik Bandyopadhyay (West Bengal State University): ‘Cricket as National Identity: ICC World Cup 2011 and Bangladesh as a Host Nation’; Amitava Chatterjee (Ramsaday College, Howrah): ‘Sporting Culture in Colonial Bengal’; Amlan Das Gupta (Jadavpur): ‘Pilgrims and Players: The Secret History of Indian Mountaineering’; Abhijit Gupta (Jadavpur): ‘A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Culture of Body-building in Colonial Bengal’; Ananya Jahanara Kabir (Leeds): ‘“Tout le monde danse la zumba”: Kinetic (Trans)Nationalism and the Zumba Fitness Craze’; Julie Vatain (Paris-Sorbonne): ‘Of Butlers and Bowlers: Sports in the Novels of P.G. Wodehouse’; Debanjan Chakrabarti (British Council): ‘Sportsmanship and Nationalism’; Payoshni Mitra (Independent Researcher): ‘Xclusion: Disputed Bodies in Sport’;Samantak Das (Jadavpur): ‘The Champion’s Two Bodies: Sport and the Problem of Identity’; Rimi B. Chatterjee (Jadavpur): ‘Gaming Beyond the Nation’; and Supriya Chaudhuri (Jadavpur): ‘Deep Play: Cultures of Risk’. Student papers were offered by Sohini Banerjee, Samyak Ghosh, Sujaan Mukherjee, Sarbajaya Bhattacharya, and Nandita Roy (Jadavpur).

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