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Aspirations, experiences and trajectories

Africans have long graced football fields around the world. The success of icons such as Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba and Mohamed Salah has fuelled the migratory projects of countless male youth across the African continent who dream of following in their footsteps. Using over a decade of ethnographic research, African Football Migration captures the historical, geographical and regulatory features of this migratory process. The book uncovers and traces the myriad actors, networks and institutions that impact the ability of children and youth across the continent to realise social mobility through football’s global production network. This sheds critical light on how young people are trying to negotiate contemporary barriers to social becoming erected by neoliberal capitalism. It also generates original interdisciplinary perspectives on the complex interplay between structural forces and human agency as young players navigate an industry rife with commercial speculation. A select few are fortunate enough to reach the elite levels of the game and build a successful career overseas. Significantly, the book vividly illustrates how for the vast majority, the outcome of ‘trying their luck’ through football is involuntary immobility in post-colonial Africa. These findings are complemented by rare empirical insights from transnational African migrants at the margins of the global football industry and those navigating precarious post-playing-career lives. In unpacking these issues, African Football Migration offers fresh perspectives on the transnational strategies deployed by youth and young men striving to improve their life chances, and the role that mobility – imagined and enacted – plays in these struggles.

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A must-have accessory of the moment?
Sara Callahan

The introduction sets up the premises and aims of the book. Modified views of history and knowledge meant that archives were gradually becoming of more interest in different disciplines in the second half of the twentieth century. No longer viewed as a neutral site housing historical documents, the archive instead became a concept and structure that needed to be scrutinised and critiqued in its own right. The introduction situates the surge in archival references in art writing and artistic practice within this broader historical and theoretical context, and formulates the book’s main questions: why is archival terminology used with such frequency in art discourse in the years around the turn of the twenty-first century, and what does this pervasive referencing indicate? These questions feed into the book’s overarching aim of analysing the function and meaning of the concept of the archive in contemporary art c. 1995–2015. The introduction ends with an outline of the book’s structure and summaries of each of its eight chapters.

in Art + Archive
Sara Callahan

Chapter 1 provides a chronological outline of the most important books, articles and other publications that define and promote archive art as a sub-genre of contemporary art from the mid-1990s to c. 2015. The outline is followed by a discussion of points of commonality between the different texts. This discussion is organised around ten thematic headings that include the political and critical associations of archive art; the most common theories and texts referenced; notions of the unreliable archive; the relationship between archive and photography; the archival notion as a curatorial connective idea; the contrast between archive as a material and metaphor; as well as intertextual and self-reflexive aspects of the archive. Many of the discussions in subsequent chapters are elaborations of issues identified and briefly outlined here.

in Art + Archive
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Sara Callahan

Although there is no such thing as a coherent ‘archive theory’, several key texts and conceptualisations are frequently enlisted in discussions of archives at the turn of the twenty-first century (by Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Pierre Nora, Jorge Luis Borges, Wolfgang Ernst and others). The chapter outlines the most frequently referenced theorisations of the archive and suggests several socio-historical reasons why the archive became so important during the last decades of the twentieth century. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent opening up of the old Stasi archives, the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa and the discussion of the role of archival practices in implementing the country’s racial politics as well the use of archival practices to heal the nation, all brought the archive to the forefront. Postcolonial and feminist scholars interested in forms of archival exclusion also contributed in making the archive a point of interest at this time. And in addition to these factors, the shift to digital technology resulted in renewed attention to the technological basis of history writing in general, and of archives in particular. The chapter argues that the meshing of such historical events and the broad cluster of theories about archives contributed to an increasing visibility and interest in both physical archives and the archive as a concept.

in Art + Archive
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Understanding the archival turn in contemporary art
Author: Sara Callahan

Art + archive: Understanding the archival turn in contemporary art examines the meaning and function of the notion of the archive in art writing and artistic practices c. 1995–2015. The book takes on one of the most persistent buzzwords in the international artworld, adding nuance and context to a much-discussed but under-analysed topic.

The study’s first part outlines key texts about archive art, the interdisciplinary theories these build on, and the specific meaning the archive comes to have when it is brought into the artworld. The second part examines the archive art phenomenon in relation to materiality, research, critique, curating and temporality. Instead of approaching the archive as an already defined conceptual tool for analysing art, the book rethinks the so-called archival turn, showing how the archive is used to point to, theorise and make sense of a number of different conditions and concerns deemed to be urgent and important at the turn of the twenty-first century. These include the far-reaching implications of technological changes; the prevalence of different forms of critique of normative structures; changes to the view of the art object; and the increasing academicisation of artistic practices. This book shows that the archive is adaptable and elastic, but that it is also loaded with a great deal of theoretical baggage. It clarifies why, how and with what consequences the archive is referenced and mobilised by contemporary artists and art writers.

Sara Callahan

This chapter analyses what happens when archival theories migrate to an art context, and considers the specific conditions that make the term stick. It shows how the archive functions as a productive short cut to theorise a changed notion of art, and the complex function of art institutions, documents and discursive systems in post-war art. The increasingly theoretical understanding of the archive in the second half of the twentieth century – as both material and structure, both concrete place and abstract law – is shown to share a great deal with the institutional theory of art outlined by Arthur Danto in the mid-1960s. By considering these jointly, comparing vocabulary, use of concepts, epistemological structures and notions of temporality, the chapter makes clear that these different theoretical clusters lock into one another in numerous ways and that elements of archive theory reinforced elements of the institutional theory of art and vice versa.

By examining one recent reference to Ed Ruscha’s work – Michael Maranda’s 2009 remake of Twentysix Gasoline Stations – the chapter points to the archival function of such returns.

in Art + Archive
Élodie Lecuppre-Desjardin

The three last chapters are devoted to the topic of the absence of any sense of community. According to Charles Tilly and other historians who have followed him, wars can help to build the state. When people fight against a common enemy, they develop a sense of belonging to the same community. This chapter shows that although the dukes of Burgundy were engaged in constant warfare and created perfectly organised armies, their subjects did not share this sense of a common enemy.

in The illusion of the Burgundian state
Paul Darby, James Esson, and Christian Ungruhe

This chapter examines the rationale behind African youth entering into and transitioning between a series of nodes in the local football industry that they hope will lead to transnational football migration. It reveals how youth in contemporary Africa increasingly perceive and justify their entry into the local game as part of their biographical planning in an era of neoliberal governance. The chapter also introduces a range of interpretations and representations of football that shape this project of individual and social becoming, teasing out the ‘migration drivers’ that influence young people’s decision to embark on a career in football. More specifically, youth are argued to see football migration as a vehicle for social mobility, an alternative pathway to attain a sense of respectable adulthood and fulfil intergenerational obligations to family, alongside wider social expectations around migration in West African contexts. Significantly, the chapter illustrates that although operating within neoliberal contexts that encourage individuation, the migratory drivers informing aspirations to ‘become a somebody’ through football are part of a more collective endeavour. These drivers and attendant aspirations are constitutive of a ‘social negotiation of hope’.

in African football migration

The chapter details how the neoclassical framework dominates academic economics globally and argues that it is fundamentally unable to make visible, much less address the structural inequalities that are almost the defining feature of our modern economies. For example, its theoretical foundations are unsuitable for addressing structural inequality because they analyse the interaction of individuals in an ahistorical vacuum. Consequently, they ignore the historical and social contexts that explain where inequalities come from and how they are reproduced, and as such, neoclassical economics is strongly biased towards accepting the status quo. The chapter illustrates these weaknesses and blind spots through considering how neoclassical economics attempts to explain the prevalence of racial and gender discrimination. The book then returns to the experiences of students who are told that this neoclassical framework is an objective description of the economy, and yet realise very clearly how unable it is to describe their experiences of structural inequality.

in Reclaiming economics for future generations
Élodie Lecuppre-Desjardin

For some historians, a ‘national spirit’ did emerge inside the Burgundian state and can be seen in the literature and art of the period and in noble brotherhoods such as the Order of the Golden Fleece. In this chapter, I propose a final reflection on the meaning of ‘nation’ in the Middle Ages. If a nation is an ‘imagined community’, as Benedict Anderson suggested, then it would seem that there was no Burgundian nation. This failure of Burgundy to emerge as a nation was not simply the product of its different languages, lack of a capital or diverse heritages in territories such as Flanders, Artois, Hainaut, Brabant and Burgundy. The core of the problem was rather the gap between the political ideology of the northern towns, whose power since the twelfth century had been based on a negotiated contract between princes and people, and the political ideology of the princes themselves, inspired as it was by their monarchical French legacy.

in The illusion of the Burgundian state