Socceroos and the Political Economy of Belonging

I am going to the Socceroos World Cup qualifying game this evening. Should be fun. My brother bought me a ticket and flew across from Perth. We have been hanging out in my little flat.

The game is being played at Sydney Olympic stadium at Homebush Bay. There should be a crowd of 80,000 people at the game and I suspect most of the population of Australia watching the live coverage on SBS tonight either at home or in pubs and clubs.

EDIT Post-Game: We won! Arrived early and no one seemed to be there!

Two teams lined up for the respective national anthems. 82,000 people in the crowd.

Here is my brother looking very pleased after the winning penalty shootout goal had been scored!!:

Snap of Paul and I. Hurrah!!! Check out the sea of colour behind us:

Soccer (or football to the rest of the world) has a potted history in Australia. Compared to actual contact sports, such as Australian Rules and Rugby, it has been perceived as the sport of “sheilas, wogs and poofters” as local Australian football great, Johnny Warren, named his autobiography. The sport of soccer is interesting for imagining Australian identity. Is it not possible to think of the sport of football as wonderful global event which is differentially repeated in various forms in local contexts? That is, to examine the differences between the way Australian ‘soccer’ is imagined compared to Brazilian football and so on. Although, the problem here is that there has developed, to some extent, a generic conception of the soccer/football fan.

Anyway, this game and its build up and so on has had extra interest for me because I have been reading Brian Massumi’s book Parables of the Virtual again. Specifically I have been doing a close reading of the chapter entitled “The Political Economy of Belonging: and the logic of relation” for my upcoming CSAA conference paper on an event-based conception of subculture (err, previous version here). Massumi’s basic argument is how to think of ‘belonging’ as a space of interaction not of the already-constituted, but of a heterogeneous population that is becoming. For some idea of what is going on here see my post here. I read it with Paul Corrigan’s work on ‘doing nothing’ (the limit event of the interval, that is, the event of ‘nothing’ between events) and Emilie Gomart and Antoine Hennion’s work on drug addicts and music amateurs (aka the ‘sociology of attachment’ and their ‘event-network theory’). In my CSAA paper I focus on Corrigan’s work read through Massumi.

(For a brief if not cryptic connection: In terms of the event, the ‘nothing’ that Massumi writes of on page 84 f PotV as happening on TV is the ‘nothing’ that Corrigan wrote about as happening on the streets of London. Nothing is the limit case of the event.)

Massumi’s work is great for thinking about the main problem when using a conception of the event for critical work and that is the problem of scale. There are a number of scales organised around the event of a football being kicked. The ball is the part-subject organised within the vent with a number of different part-objects depending on the scale. There are the players in the field. The kick as play. The field and players in the game. The game as a sport. The kick as stylish variation of play. The (star) players in the history of the sport. The game as a match in a tournament. The match and the stadium spectators. The game as a broadcast televisual event. The televisual event in the home. The kick as contravention of the rules. The referee and the game. All of these sets of heterogeneous elements pertain to the singular event of kicking imagined on different scales.

Belonging here is thought not in terms of whether or not a spectator, for example, supports one team or another (perhaps imagined as the ideological relation to the myth of national origins or some such), but that the spectator participates in and belongs to the event of the ball being kicked. The spectator is part of the event, but is not necessarily part of the action (this is one of the main distinctions that Gomart and Hennion make between actor-network theory and their proposed event-network theory). The political economy of belonging then is the political economy of belonging to an event through being affected, that is, becoming within the event as event, rather than participating in some action directed to an outcome (neoliberal governance model) or a belief in a shared resemblance accorded to group identity (ideological identity model).

What I tried to think in my movie sequels paper I wrote in Sweden was how to imagine anticipation (affective tension) and expectation (calculus of futurity/contingency premised on an extrapolated present) is produced between movie-events in a film series. This interval between events is crucial for the political economy of event re-, in- and per-ception, that is, how the event is actualised within fan communities. Massumi calls this a ‘regime of passage’. This newspaper article captures some sense of the excitement being built up around the Socceroos.

Massumi’s discussion of the political economy dimension of his ‘belonging/becoming’ thesis is very brief (to say the least). He writes, “Capitalism is the usurpation of belonging.” Well, not necessarily. I would rather think of questions of exchange and labour. When is money actually exchanged, who is doing what labour for whose benefit, who has the power to regulate and/or change anything, and, lastly, who would want to change anything. The question for me is not belonging, for belonging is given for those who belong to the event, as Massumi writes rather enigmatically ‘becoming-together’. For me it is a question of, literally in this case of the Socceroos, turnstyle capitalism. In other words, I am drawing the opposite conclusion to that of Massumi.

EDIT: Similarly Meaghan Morris’s essay on shopping centres also addresses some of these issues regarding the political economy of belonging. She discusses issues of belonging, scale (or referentiability and terminology), and, importantly, the utter vacuousness of shopping centres as spectacles (although she would be v. critical of my wording!!). However, relating to the distinction above between identity, action, and event as bases to think belonging:

“Shopping centres illustrate very well, I think, the argument that you can’t treat a public at a cultural event as directly expressive of social groups and classes, or their supposed sensibility. Publics aren’t stable, homogeneous entities – and polemical claims assuming that they are tell us little beyond the display of political position and identification being made by the speaker. These displays may be interesting in themselves, but they don’t necessarily say much about the wider social realities such polemics often invoke.”

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