Soccer as a Global Phenomenon (Harvard, 2016)

Soccer as a Global Phenomenon
April 14th-16th, 2016
Harvard University

An international conference examining globalization through the prism of soccer.

“Soccer as a Global Phenomenon” was organized around the theme of tension between the globalizing impulse and the tenacious appeal of local attachments. Soccer offers one of the most interesting examples of that tension because it grew out of and is still, to a large degree, embedded in affective bonds to neighborhood, community, hometown, nation.  If globalization merits study as one of the most significant aspects of the modern history of the world, soccer certainly represents a most appropriate venue through which students can approach and try to understand different facets of that complex process and its mutually transformative as well as constitutive relationship with the local.

We are interested in exploring different dimensions of that theme while sparking a conversation about the relevance of a study of soccer and of sports for a deeper critical understanding of global history and of globalization, which is widely recognized by historians and social scientists as a master process of the modern era.  Soccer represents a prism, potentially one of the most capacious and productive prisms, through which globalization can be better understood since the game has, from the late nineteenth century onwards, been a part of global exchanges and networks, evolving from the colonial to the post-colonial era with varying trajectories in different parts of the world and interacting with various other dynamics of the processes of globalization. 

Another important contribution we hope to make is in terms of the framework in the study of sports in general.  Until recently, sports in general and soccer in particular have been studied mostly in individual societies, but there is also a growing trend to research different aspects of soccer as a transnational phenomenon and from a truly global perspective. Given the importance of soccer to the global South, it constitutes a particularly useful theme for us also in terms of our additional goal of bringing the experts of the South into this conversation on the nature of global history. 

Conference Conveners:
Francesco Erspamer, Professor of Romance Languages and Literature, Harvard University
Cemal Kafadar, Vehbi Koç Professor of Turkish Studies, Department of History, Harvard University
Stephen Ortega, Associate Professor of History, Simmons College
Mariano Siskind, Professor of Romance Languages and Literature, Harvard University

Location: Tsai Auditorium, S010, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street

Made possible by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, and  Olympiacos FC, Greece.
Sponsored by the the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History, Harvard University, with generous support from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University; the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University; the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University; and Simmons College.

Many thanks to the presenters, attendees, volunteers, and sponsors who made this event such a success!

A report on the conference is available for download. A future publication will be combined with papers from the 2017 soccer conference.