<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>Baseball and the Language of Contention</b> <p> <p> In a tight game, <i>Industriales</i> have a runner on second with two outs. The more popular of the two teams that represent the capital in the <i>Serie Nacional</i>, the elite Cuban national league, <i>Industriales</i> need this victory as they strive to make the playos in the spring of 1998. They are two games out of the last spot with four games to play. <p> Carlos Tabares, the team's emotional leader, leads o of second. He is fast and rather reckless when he plays. He loves dramatic gestures, and sometimes his desire for such gestures backfires. Juan Padilla, the second baseman, is jammed on the pitch and he hits a little flare of a fly ball over the third baseman's head, directly behind third base. Tabares takes o running with the crack of the bat; the third base coach gesticulates wildly, apparently sending Tabares home. The shortstop desperately races over to try and catch the flare, but it is just out of his reach. The ball bounces in front of the shortstop, who fields the ball on the hop just down the third base line, turns, and fires to the waiting catcher at home plate. The fans all along the third base line, where the majority of <i>Industriales</i>' supporters usually congregate, rise up, their voices crescendoing as the runner and throw converge at the plate. Tabares slides into home plate, violently colliding with the catcher, who is barring easy access to Tabares's safe arrival. The umpire sees that the catcher has hung onto the ball even as Tabares's barreling body has sent him sprawling. The umpire's arm comes up, signaling that Tabares is out. The crowd erupts, howling in shared agony. Tabares leaps up and screams at the umpire. <i>Industriales'</i> manager races out of the dugout and begins to argue with the umpire. It is as sharp and short a confrontation as the play at the plate. <p> In the stands, the fans are mirroring the confrontation on the field. Even as <i>Industriales'</i> players warm up for the next half an inning, the buzz of emotional voices continues unabated behind the home team's bench. Some are arguing about whether or not the umpire made the correct call. Everything, from the position of the umpire in relation to the collision to the supposed bias of the umpire as <i>anti</i>-Industrialista, informs the swiftly moving debates. Others argue over the finer strategic points of whether or not the third base coach meant to send Tabares, and if he did, what the devil was he thinking when the ball was so close to the infield? <p> The verbal confrontation between athlete or manager and umpire is not new, nor are the fans' emotional reactions to events and their ensuing debates. The contexts in which such confrontations occur are always the most tense, passionate games. When elimination is a potential outcome, when real or imagined expectations-such as <i>Industriales'</i> assumed place in the playos-heighten the tension of the spectacle, those are the moments when Cuban managers and players challenge the authority figure that determines reality on the diamond. A Cuban manager does not argue with an umpire to "defend one's players" as professional managers in Major League Baseball do during the course of a season. Cuban managers challenge an umpire's call only when it appears that a particular umpire may have had an obstructed or partial view of the total play. Fans, however, question nearly everything-from umpires' calls, to pitch selection, to overall strategy. It is all grist for their verbal mill. Their arguments reflect differing versions of an event, whether a player was safe or out, whether an umpire is biased, whether a manager employed the "right" strategy. <i>Industriales'</i> manager explained the difficulty of his job: "After every game, there are twenty, thirty, forty thousand managers waiting outside the stadium's exit to explain to me what I did wrong." Arguments like these are microcosmic examples of the languages of contention that exist, not just in baseball but in broader society. <p> Wherever fans congregate, they discuss the decisions made and the actions of not just athletes, but coaches and umpires, and the correctness of their decisions. This discourse remains nearly constant; the next game only adds additional information to the continuing arguments in which Cuban fans engage. These debates do not end with the final out; they continue the next morning in various sites around Havana. Their viewpoints and the arguments that ensue from their differing positions are struggles over the definition of "what just happened." In short, they are arguments over social reality. Their passion feeds social constructions of Cuban reality and, at the same time, their language, the metaphors of the game, percolates into social discourse, creating images unique to Cuban understandings of the game and themselves. Similarly, baseball fields, appearing identical to those found elsewhere throughout the Americas, configure Cuban notions of themselves and their place in the world. It is these notions of themselves and their place in the world that inform and fuel the struggles inherent in identity politics. <p> The central paradox of identity politics is that such localized struggles are no longer tied to specific geographic locations, if they ever were (cf. Sharp 1996 with Comaroff 1996). Identities' supposed primordial natures have become transcendent, crossing political, social, economic, spatial, and temporal divides. Sentiments, whose greatest force is their ability to ignite intimacy into political awareness and turn locality into a staging ground for identity, are now spread over vast and irregular spaces. It is through the disjunctive interplay of commerce, media, and national politics that identity, once a genie contained in the spatial bottle of locality, has now become a global force forever slipping in, between, and through Aladdin's lamp. These artificial encapsulations simply did not and do not reflect the ambiguous intangibility of identities' locations, for, like the locations of cultures (Bhabha 1994), they are not only lived in material, daily interactions but are also imagined, multiple, and mobile. The difficulties with such enclosed, "spatialized" localities are that they obscure the lived realities faced by any transnational person. Perhaps now more than ever, people are chronically mobile and routinely displaced. They invent homes and homelands not in situ but through memories of and claims on places that they can or will no longer corporeally occupy (Malkki 1997a). Such processes transform places from being mere containers of people, things to be assimilated as known categories, to being social events in which people create and perform place and self. <p> As events, places become social performances that are continuously negotiated and repeatedly performed by people engaged in these interactive processes. Each place, then, is unique, taking on the qualities of its occupants and reflecting those qualities in its own constitution and description and expressing them in its occurrence: places not only are, they happen (Casey 1996: 26-27). Keith Basso's exquisite study on the places the Western Apache inhabit (1996) deftly and passionately demonstrates that their landscape is not a static piece of mountainous desert that they occupy but consists of continuous, vibrant interactive occurrences that constantly remind them who they are as Apache. Although others occupy the same space in Arizona, that is, Anglos and Latinos, they do not exist within the same places as the Apache. Basso's open frustration of learning place-names and the stories associated with them while traversing the range pursuing cattle with Apache mentors makes this all too clear. The rootedness the Apache experience through their stories embedded in the landscape powerfully illustrates the imaginary saliency place has amongst people, yet the imaginary power of places is not limited to the occupiers of a particular parcel of land. <p> By comprehending places as events, not everyone present is necessarily part of that place-they do not participate in the event that constitutes that place making. This disjuncture, the separation of people from an imagined parcel of land, challenges the assumptions that "ground" people to a territory; assumptions that are prevalent not only among international aid agencies, governments, and other NGOS working with refugees and other migrants but among scholars as well (Malkki 1997b). The grounding of peoples in static locations limits the kinds of understandings scholars can have of societies and cultures. The decoupling of culture and location proves to be powerfully vibrant, as Dick Hebdige shows. <p> Rather than tracing back the roots ... to their source, I've tried to show how the roots themselves are in a constant state of flux and change. The roots don't stay in one place. They change shape. They change colour. And they grow. There is no such thing as a pure point of origin ... but that doesn't mean there isn't history (Hebdige 1987: 10). <p> <p> Hebdige's refusal to be limited to fixed territorial concepts in tracing the cultural evolution of expressive forms insightfully shows the liberating analytical flexibility separating specific territorially defined localities and places from culture and identity. Such separation provides greater clarity and creativity in ethnographic enquiry, demonstrating that just as places are more frequently understood as cultural events than as static locations, anthropological investigations should be envisioned more as a multiplicity of events than a discrete period of time a researcher spends occupying a supposedly discrete space. Critiques of anthropological writing (Behar and Gordon 1995; Clifford and Marcus 1986; Marcus and Fischer 1986) point out that the nature of the ethnographic enterprise is one that is increasingly similar to other transnational forms. While the initial efforts of anthropologists adopted a perspective in their works that located them outside and/or above their respective fields, the disciplinary turn in the late twentieth century that located the investigative self within "the field," as a discretely bounded space that one could enter and exit, also became increasingly problematic. Places are, like all symbols, essentially empty of meaning until a group of people imbues them with meaning. These meanings are hardly uncontested and are constantly struggled over. <p> The history of particular concepts, and how they come to mean what they do at particular moments and particular times, can never be divorced from larger historical contexts. It is important to look carefully at why it is seen as necessary, at those moments and those times, that this particular aspect of social reality should be named. Concepts, especially those relating to social life, emerge out of debate, contestation, and generally as in some sense answers to perceived problems; a concept's history shapes it in various ways. On the one hand, the meanings a concept acquires are never completely fixed, rather they tend to evolve continuously; on the other hand, earlier meanings may cling to it and affect its later usage. In other words, there is a continual reciprocal interaction between the context that calls concepts into being and within which they come to be used, and the relatively stable meanings that they acquire over time, which have their own power. This power derives from the fact that human beings necessarily perceive their world as defined, not totally but to an important extent, by the names or concepts they have inherited (Crehan 2002: 39). <p> <p> These struggles over the meanings of concepts that define social experience constitute what William Roseberry calls "languages of contention" (Roseberry 1994, 1996). A language of contention is a tacitly agreed upon symbolic framework that connects discursive and social fields of force through which contestations for power are articulated. In such frameworks, the concept itself is not questioned but its significance, its meaning, becomes the point of struggle. Such languages are a uniquely privileged concept for the exploration of the dynamic tension evident in, but not limited to, ethnic and national identities as well as state legitimacy; each of which can serve as interrelated languages of contention (Roseberry 1996: 77). Furthermore, these languages are a central aspect of hegemonic processes that form the common discursive frameworks in which domination and struggle can occur. What is especially significant about languages of contention is that they are not tied to any geographic location; nor are individuals required to be physically proximate to one another for them to engage in such language. In this manner, languages of contention are indicative of the ebb and flow of power within complex interrelated social relationships. <p> As a preeminent language of contention, sport should not be understood as a stable, monolithic cultural institution but rather "as sites where creative resistances are practiced, bringing the processes of struggle to the forefront" (Springwood 1996: 183). As a discursive arena within the context of power that serves to circulate, control, and represent knowledge, making it uniquely effective for inculcating national feelings, sport has been harnessed to specific ideological discourses across the political spectrum (Hoberman 1984). Political leaders have made use of sport symbolism to convey position, strength, resoluteness, and other meanings throughout the ages. U.S. presidents throw out the ritual first pitch, and routinely telephone to congratulate the champions of a prominent professional league. Socialist leaders made sport one of several tools used to mobilize the masses and was perceived as completely inseparable from education, culture, health, defense, happiness, and the development of a new society (Riordan 1999). Socialist leaders used sport as part of their revolutionary platforms precisely because it was one way to incur prestige in international arenas in which the prominence and strength of socialist states could be trumpeted (Riordan 1978) as well as inculcate specific bodily ideals in the populace (Brownell 1995). When Castro's Revolutionaries swarmed into Havana, one of their first activities was to engage in a series of exhibition baseball games to demonstrate the Cubanness of the Revolution's leaders. <p> It is clear, then, that sport can be implemented to convey a variety of meanings. The ease with which even the least political individual can identify a team of nine, eleven, or fifteen young persons physically excelling with the nation makes an imagined community of millions all the more real. That individual, even one who merely cheers, becomes an embodied symbol of one's nation as well (Hobsbawm 1990: 139-42). Even at a more localized level, involvement in a sport easily makes other, smaller imagined communities just as real, and through participation-whether by cheering, playing, or officiating-individuals become embodied iconic symbols of those respective communities, whether this is an ethnic, geographic, religious or other affiliation. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>The Quality of Home Runs</b> by <b>THOMAS F. CARTER</b> Copyright © 2008 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.