Changing Society, Changing Sport? Social Diversity, Cultural Citizenship and the Sporting Nation

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: 412
Oral Presentation
David ROWE , Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, Australia
Sport is routinely evident as a key signifier of nation around the world.  But in Australia the unusually elevated place of sport in ‘official’ and popular national culture means that questions surrounding sport, citizenship and national fealty have an especially deep resonance.  For example, sport is more prominent in the advisory information for Australia’s citizenship test, and more closely connected to its characterisation of national cultural identity, than in equivalent documentation of comparable countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom.  Key national sports events are also protected for free television viewing by the world’s most rigorous ‘anti-siphoning’ regime in the name of safeguarding “events of national importance and cultural significance” from less accessible subscription television platforms.  Affinity with sport, and to the nation through sport, is likely to be less secure as global population mobility alters the demographic composition of Australia’s citizenry.  It is for this reason that its most dynamically diverse region, Greater Western Sydney (GWS), was selected as the primary research site for a current project addressing sport’s relationship to cultural citizenship in Australia.  GWS has an estimated resident population approaching two million, with almost a third born overseas and of non-English speaking background, approximately half of whom arrived in Australia during or after 2001.  With almost forty per cent of residents speaking a language other than English at home, over a half aged below thirty five and approximately a fifth in low income households, GWS is a highly appropriate context for exploring the process of ‘nationing’ through Australia’s sporting system and its relationship to socio-cultural inequality and exclusion under conditions of advancing globalisation.  The paper reports on this research-in-progress, and analyses the preliminary findings of its qualitative exploration of the sport-nation-culture nexus.