Marginalized Youths` Constructions of Identity in the Context of Self-Organized Sports: An Ethnographic Exploration at Urban Football Grounds

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Johannes MÜLLER, Justus-Liebig-Universität, Giessen, Germany, Germany
In public and political debates young ethnic minority men are commonly labelled as a ‘problem group’ and in scientific discourses researchers attest them difficulties with identity development. Taking into account that young ethnic minority men are primarily keen on sports in informal contexts, the study focuses on the self-organized football activities of underprivileged, poorly educated boys from culturally traditional migrant families and aims at exploring the various meanings of sport for these youths with regard to their constructions of identity. Based on semi-structured interviews, ethnographic conversations and (participant) observations the study investigates the narrative as well as (unintentional) nonverbal constructions and presentations of identity. Findings show that the 13 interviewed and observed young men suffer from spoiled identities and negative self-images due to educational failure and perceived inferior social positions. Furthermore, the material reveals that the boys see sporting activities as a legitimate cultural sphere, where excellent skills are recognized and valued by their families and friends, but also in society as whole. It is concluded that for these youths – due to default of (legitimate) alternatives – sports are the most important (and maybe the only) practice for experiencing competence and success, allowing to compensate for perceived failure in other social domains, most notably, the educational domain. The urban football ground thus can be described as a ‘counter world’ to the lifeworld of school and becomes a place for coping and curing various threats to identity.