The Culture of Women's Soccer in Senegal: Reconciling Dissonance Among Representation

Friday, July 18, 2014: 12:00 AM
Room: 412
Oral Presentation
Beth PACKER , Territoires, espaces, société, EHESS, Paris, France
What does it mean to be a “footballeuse” (a soccer player) in Senegal? In Senegal, women’s soccer is more than a game; it is a counterculture that promotes provocation and antagonism of mainstream social norms and conventions. It is a culture framed by the shared experience of struggle that embodies strength, aggression and unconformity. In this paper, I show how the “footballeuse” culture is often in conflict with the dominant gender ideology, religious beliefs, sexual norms and social practices of mainstream Senegalese society. I then discuss how this dissonance creates perceived dilemmas in the experience of the footballeuse around questions of identity and religion. My analysis explores these dilemmas and demonstrates how these women reconcile inconsistencies among cultural representations by constructing new flexible meanings of femininity. Finally, drawing on Jacques Rancière’s theory of dissensus, I show how the “footballeuses” in Senegal use this space of dissonance to claim a stake in society, to break the current order of governance, making the practice of women’s soccer in Senegal profoundly political. Data was collected through nine months of participant observation, 40 in-depth interviews as well as analysis of secondary sources such as print, online and televised media.