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Abstract Details

Abstract Title

Social agency and football fandom: the cultural pedagogies of the Western Sydney ultras

Abstract Theme

Sport sociology

Type Presentation

Oral presentation

Abstract Authors

Presenter Jorge Knijnik - Western Sydney University (Education) - AU

Presentation Details

Room: Venus        Date: 3 September        Time: 10:20:00        Presenter: Jorge Knijnik

Abstract Resume

Background: The establishment of the Western Sydney Wanderers FC stands out as one of the major events in Australian sporting life since 2012. The newly-born club has not only made
the two grand finals of the national tournament since its 2012 birth, but has also won the 2014 Asian Champions League in its first appearance in the major continental tournament. However, the
exceptional nature of the fandomship associated with this club carries greater cultural and sociological significance; the multicultural cohort of Wanderers supporters and the so-called “Red and Black
Block” (RBB) has shown Australia a totally new way of supporting a sports team. From the very beginning the RBB has embraced the team, changing the whole scenario of Australian football fandom. The
RBB calls itself as the true representative of the ultras culture in Australia as they have a clear mission of supporting their club, regardless of the match results. This paper addresses key
questions of social agency and cultural pedagogy within the neoliberal structures of ‘modern football’ in the Australian context. It reports on a two-year ethnographic study of the Red and Black Bloc,
an Australian ultras group in Western Sydney, one of the most culturally diverse areas in Australia. The origins of the Western Sydney ultras are described, along with their struggles to build their
own cultural identity and to fight for social agency within a commodified football league.


Methods:Building on directions suggested by previous research on sport fandom in Australia, this paper investigates the Western Sydney ultras socialization process and its cultural
ramifications in the Western Sydney region - the most multi-ethnically and social tense area in Australia. A combination of a multifaceted theoretical model with a range of ethnographic data –
including document analysis, participant observation  and in-depth interviews - was used to describe and analyse the collected data.


Results: This study reveals the processes by which the Western Sydney ultras enhance members’ social cohesion toward an increased social consciousness. 


Conclusions:The paper acknowledges the role that ultras, as authentic cultural formations, may have in the propagation of new cultural pedagogies that have the potential to enhance
citizenship, communal life and participatory democracy.


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