The Mauroy Stadium in Lille, France, boasts a capacity of more than 50,000 spectators.
The Mauroy Stadium in Lille, France, boasts a capacity of more than 50,000 spectators.

Sport and Society

Anthro 324 with Prof. Silverstein looks at how sports reinforce—and challenge—fundamental social constructs.

September 10, 2021

Sports are deeply entangled with and imbricated in social processes, cultural institutions, and everyday life across much of the globe. In Anthropology 324 , Prof. Paul Silverstein approaches sports play as a set of embodied practices and performances, as a primary site both for reproducing fundamental categories such as gender, class, race, and ethnicity—and for innovating them. 

Through case studies of sporting practices (including soccer, cricket, baseball, basketball, bodybuilding, boxing, capoeira, skateboarding, and parkour), students examine how colonial legacies are literally embodied in contemporary forms of urban space. They also look at the relationship between sport, colonialism, nationalism, and globalization. 

“I love provoking Reedies to take sports seriously,” says Prof. Silverstein. “At first blush it seems counterintuitive to Reed’s intellectual self-image, and yet sports prove to be such a fantastic lens through which to investigate some very serious questions around culture, identity, inequality, and geopolitics. Sports are part of all of our lives, whether we love them or hate them, and we all have embodied experiences to bring to the discussion. And we get to play cricket on the front lawn!”

Prof. Silverstein is a cultural anthropologist who teaches courses on the culture and politics of the Middle East, the anthropology of colonialism, the anthropology of class, and the anthropology of immigration.

He is author of Postcolonial France: Race, Islam and the Future of the Republic (Pluto, 2018) and Algeria in France: Transpolitics, Race, and Nation (Indiana, 2004). He is co-editor (with Ussama Makdisi) of Memory and Violence in the Middle East and North Africa (Indiana, 2006) and (with Jane Goodman) of Bourdieu in Algeria: Colonial Politics, Ethnographic Practices, Theoretical Developments (Nebraska, 2009). He is completing an ethnography on Amazigh/Berber ethno-politics, historical consciousness, and development in southeastern Morocco, and has been pursuing new research on the history and politics of immigrant labor in the coal mines of post-war Europe. Last year he and his students published The Quarantine Journals in Reed Magazine.

He holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago and has been at Reed since 2000.

Tags: Courses We’d Love To Take, Academics, Sports & Adventures