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  • Sport in the African World ed. by John Nauright and Mahfoud Amara
  • Conor Heffernan
Nauright, John, and Mahfoud Amara. Sport in the African World. London: Routledge, 2018. Pp. 242. Introduction, bibliography, index. $149.99, hb.

Opening with the claim that "Africans and people of African descent have had more of an impact on sport than perhaps on any other sphere of global culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries" (1), John Nauright and Mahfoud Amara's collection of sporting essays marks a welcome new direction in the study of African sport. Tracing its lineage back to William J. Baker and J. A. Mangan's seminal edited collection Sport in Africa: Essays in Social History (1987), the present collection marks another step forward in the historiography of African sport. Covering a wide range of sports, regions, and time periods, the editors have amassed a great diversity of authors and subject matter. As is often the case with collected editions, it is difficult to do justice to each contribution. Instead, the following review concerns itself with three larger themes that emanate from the collection, namely, the sporting economy, sport and identity, and the relationship between sport and politics.

Regarding sport and the commercialization of sport, several contributions deal directly with sport as enterprise. Gerard Akindes's study of television broadcasting traces the emergence of sports broadcasting from Africa's decade of independence to the present day when typical African fans now have the the opportunity to share in the same viewing experiences as their European, American, or Asian counterparts (68). Despite such progress, Akindes is quick to note the limited profitability surrounding domestic African leagues, believing that foreign sports, most notably soccer, have attracted the majority of viewers' attention (69). The dichotomy between domestic and foreign sports, especially when money is involved, is reiterated in Paul Darby and Nienke van der Mej's exploratory work on athlete migration from Africa. Diverging from previous economic models, the authors argue for a more nuanced framework on African migration, one that combines monetary concerns with family and social ones (108). Tembi Tichaawa, Urmilla Bob, and Kamilla Swarts's chapter on sports tourism finishes the collection's focus on the business of sport in their exploration of constraints to greater tourist numbers in Africa. Unsurprisingly, media concerns about safety and barriers to travel across great distances are seen as two reasons that sporting tourism has thus far been limited (196). Similarly illustrative is the authors' finding that, aside from African events such as the African Cup of Nations, the majority [End Page 428] of major sporting events have taken place in South Africa, to the detriment of promoting other African states (199).

The collection is not just concerned with economics matters, however, as evidenced by the refreshing variety of contributions centered on identity politics. Claude Boli's work on African sport personalities and the African diaspora in Europe (9–30) is complemented by Derek Charles Catsam's later chapter on the African diaspora in the United States (146–68). In both instances, the authors stress the importance of the individual athlete's autonomy and identity as set against a nebulous sense of "Africanness." Both works forcefully demonstrate the tightrope presented to first- or multigenerational athletes of African heritage between retaining an African identity and adhering to the codes of their birth nation. Other contributions to the collection are no less nuanced. Benedict Carton and John Nauright's discussion of the white Zulu athlete, namely, the cricketer Lance Kulsener in South Africa, reveals the permeability of racial identities in postapartheid Africa (180). Cora Burnett's study of traditional sports and games in Africa highlights tensions between colonial and Western models of play versus indigenous understandings (128), while the book's final chapter by Sasha Sutherland and John Nauright on women and race in African and African diaspora sport dissects issues of beauty, race, and gender within sporting discourses (213).

Closely connected to the issue of identity is, of course, the political realm, and, in this regard, the collection is well served first by Moncef Lyazghi and Abderrahim Rharib's discussion of Moroccan football. Tracing the relationship between the state and the beautiful game, the...


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pp. 428-429
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