Doctor of Philosophy
Barney, Robert K.
Folk sports are the countertype of modern sports: invented traditions, bolstered by tangible ritual and intangible myth, played by the common folk in order to express a romantic ethnic identity. Like other cultural forms, traditional sports and games around the world are becoming marginalized in the face of modernization and globalization. In 2003, UNESCO ratified the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in an attempt to counter such trends of cultural homogenization. As elements of intangible cultural heritage, folk sports now fall under the auspices of UNESCO safeguarding policies. As such, the objective of this study was to understand the reactions of UNESCO and national agencies to the folk sport revival movement and, conversely, to understand the effects of supranational safeguarding policies on the marginalization of folk sport.
Through the lens of globalization theory, the primary research methodology employed was a comparative case study analysis of four UNESCO-safeguarded folk sports (Turkish oil wrestling, Brazilian capoeira, Kyrgyz kok boru, and Irish hurling). The selection of the case studies was based on geography, sport type, safeguarding mechanisms, type of nationalism, and marginality. Henning Eichberg’s folk sport modernization outcomes of sportification, pedagogization, and folklorization figured prominently throughout the cases, along with two newly-proposed methods: retraditionalization and nationalization.
Upon examination of the four case studies, it became clear that the nomination of local folk sports to the UNESCO Representative List was dictated by touristic and nationalistic motivations, rather than cultural safeguarding ones. Although it was not evident that UNESCO heritagization had a direct affect on the practice, status, and meaning of folk sports, there was an affect on the relationship between folk sport preservation and nation-building narratives: External nationalists vie for global recognition through ‘UNESCO status’; folk sport (also termed ethnosport) remains a symbol of ethnonational identity; and cultural nationalists seek to bolster national unity through shared cultural traditions, such as the adoption of national folk sports. By mobilizing knowledge across a spectrum of academic disciplines, this study provides a renewed perspective to the notion of intangible cultural heritage and folk sporting traditions in our increasingly homogeneous global village.
Summary for Lay Audience
Folk sports are local, ethnic, traditional games, such as French pétanque, Japanese kendo, or coconut tree climbing races in Polynesia. In the twenty-first century, such games feature very little in our everyday lives. The effects of globalization and modernization have marginalized a vast diversity of games the world over. Today, people are more interested in the spectacle of the Olympic Games and professional sports than in the precursors to the modern sport-entertainment business. The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, however, is a global instrument that’s objectives are to preserve such cultural traditions. Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) can be defined as those aspects of a community’s culture intrinsic to its identity and uniqueness, and folk sports fall within this label. As such, for the last decade, over thirty folk sports have been inscribed in the UNESCO ICH Representative List.
The aims of this dissertation are to analyze the effects of UNESCO’s universal safeguarding policies on the local contexts at which they are aimed, understand why and how folk games are being marginalized (and whether it even matters), and to study the relationship between folk sport preservation and nationalism. The primary methodology used to frame these objectives is a case study comparison. Four UNESCO-recognized folk sports (Turkish oil wrestling, Brazilian capoeira, Kyrgyz kok boru, and Irish hurling) were selected based on the following criteria: geography, sport type, safeguarding mechanisms, marginality, and type of nationalism exhibited.
A common theme across all the case studies was that UNESCO nomination was generally motivated by tourism and nationalism, rather than by conservationism. For instance, external nationalists vie for global recognition through ‘UNESCO status,’ folk sport (also termed ethnosport) remains a symbol of ethnonational identity, and cultural nationalists seek to bolster national unity through shared cultural traditions, such as the adoption of national folk sports. Although it was not evident that UNESCO heritagization had a direct affect on the practice, status, and meaning of folk sports, there was an affect on the relationship between folk sport preservation and the nation-building process.
Fabian, Thomas, "Endangered Species of the Physical Cultural Landscape: Globalization, Nationalism, and Safeguarding Traditional Folk Games" (2021). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7701.