Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 March 2012
Sports and Subalternity
Subalternity, in this collection, has been interpreted in its widest possible sense. As defined twenty years ago by Ranajit Guha, the concept appears narrow and limited by its origins in Marxist theory (Guha 1982: 1–7). As it has been used over the last two decades it has taken on a broader meaning so that the ‘subaltern’ is the dominated party in any power relationship and the study of subalternity is of relationships characterised by ‘dominance without hegemony’. The importance of the concept of subalternity lies in its recognition of the ‘autonomous domain’ of the subaltern agent or agents. While dominated, the subaltern is not entirely obliterated and retains values, ideas and modes of action that are not prescribed by the dominant and which can draw upon beliefs and experiences exclusive to the individual or group. In other words the subaltern always has the potential to oppose or resist the dominant as he or she may draw upon alternative values and ideas and can refer back to different experiences and behavioural expectations. As such the position of the dominant group is often a precarious de facto arrangement rather than a generally accepted de jure agreement (Ludden 2002; Chaturvedi 2000).
Sports invite subalternity. In the first place this is because sports, especially those organized games of the modern period, are all about contest and competition in which victory or defeat are the anticipated outcomes of the exercise.