* Your assessment is very important for improving the work of artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project
Sociology of Sport Journal, 2005, 21, 59-77 © 2005 Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc. Athletes as Agents of Change: An Examination of Shifting Race Relations Within Women’s Netball in Post-Apartheid South Africa Cynthia Fabrizio Pelak This study examines shifting race relations within one of South Africa’s most popular and fastest growing sports—women’s netball. Drawing on political opportunity and collective identity theories as articulated by social movement scholars, this article develops an analytical strategy to elucidate how athletes and sport administrators can serve as agents of social change. This analysis relies on interview, survey, and archival data collected during 1999 and 2000. The findings show that netball athletes and administrators are contributing to nation building in post-apartheid South Africa by constructing new collective identities across historical racial boundaries. Cette étude porte sur les changements dans les relations raciales au sein du sport le plus populaire et prenant le plus d’ampleur en Afrique du Sud : le netball féminin. En empruntant aux théories de l’opportunité politique et de l’identité collective telles qu’articulées par les théoriciens du mouvement social, cet article comprend une analyse stratégique qui élucide la façon dont les athlètes et les administrateurs sportifs peuvent servir d’agents de changement social. Cette analyse se fonde sur des entrevues, une enquête et des données d’archives colligées en 1999 et 2000. Les résultats permettent de conclure que les athlètes et les administrateurs du netball contribuent à bâtir la nation dans une Afrique du Sud post-apartheid en construisant de nouvelles identités collectives sans égard aux frontières raciales historiques. The dismantling of apartheid during the early 1990s signaled the end of the international sports boycott against South Africa. In 1991, after a 30-year absence, the International Olympic Committee invited South Africa to return to the Olympic Games. The politics of racial transformation and sports in post-apartheid South Africa have received much attention from scholars (Booth, 1998; Farquharson & Marjoribanks, 2003; Nauright, 1997). The research, which shows that sports are central to the nation-building process, focuses almost exclusively on elite male sport administrators and male-dominated sports. Experiences of athletes at the grassroots level and those in sports dominated and controlled by women are given very little attention. Moreover, scholars generally assume that the South African nonracial sports movement1 ended with the disbanding of organizations such as the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee and South Africa Council of Sport. In this article, I broaden the existing literature by arguing that the nonracial sports movement continues in the new South Africa, especially in one of the nation’s most popular sports—women’s netball. The author is with the University of Memphis, Department of Sociology, 231 Clement Hall, Memphis, TN 38152. 59 60 Pelak Netball,2 a sport with roots in the United States and Britain and closely related to basketball, is an appealing context in which to examine collective action and shifting power relations in post-apartheid South Africa because of its historical gender/race/class configuration. Netball emerged as a quintessentially feminine sport for White females of middle-class backgrounds during the 1950s. By the 1980s, however, although it was still dominated by White women, netball became the most popular sport among South African women of all racial and class backgrounds from rural and urban communities (Sport Information & Science Agency, 1997). With the democratization of South Africa, a period of intense racial conflict emerged within netball that ultimately led to a substantial racial transformation of the sport. This analysis examines the transitional period of the 1990s and develops a conceptual strategy for exploring how athletes and sport administrators can act as agents of social change. Theoretically, this analysis draws on political opportunity theory (Jenkins, 1985; McAdam, 1983) and collective identity theory (Melucci, 1996; Taylor & Whittier, 1992) as articulated in the social movements literature. Methodologically this study is grounded in an interactionist tradition and informed by insights from Black feminist and Third World feminist scholarship. The data used are quantitative and qualitative observations gathered through fieldwork in South Africa during 1999 and 2000. By conceptualizing South African women netball athletes and administrators as political actors and examining the process of collective change in netball, this study extends the scholarship on sports and social change, race and sports, and collective identity among a diverse group of women. Political Opportunity and Collective Identity Theories Social movement scholars identify two major prerequisites for the development of collective action—a degree of openness in the political order and a shared understanding of an injustice among a group of individuals. Political opportunity theory addresses the first prerequisite, and collective identity theory grapples with the second. Political opportunity theory focuses on the political context, political elites, and the level of opportunity for the articulation of grievances and oppositional organizing. This theory holds that collective mobilization against the dominant order emerges and succeeds in contexts in which divisions among political elites and political institutions are heightened and counter-mobilization tactics by elites are weakened (Jenkins, 1985; Jenkins & Perrow, 1977; McAdam, 1982, 1983). In the case of the democratic transformation of South Africa, political opportunity theorists are likely to focus on how the fragmentation among political and economic elites during the 1980s created opportunities and successes for the mass democratic movement. In this study, political opportunity theory will be used to examine how the shifting political context and divisions among netball administrators created opportunities to challenge the sport’s apartheid structures and practices. Collective identity theory, in contrast, focuses on the processes by which groups collectively define themselves, maintain group solidarity, and act on their grievances. Collective identity theorists argue that for individuals to come together and translate their experiences of social injustices into social protest, they must Athletes as Agents of Change 61 develop a collective identity based on common interests, experiences, and consciousness (Gamson, 1997; Melucci, 1996; Taylor & Whittier, 1992, 1995). The process of forming oppositional collective identities is recognized as a challenge in and of itself because it disrupts and reconfigures dominant social boundaries. Melucci (1996) maintains that collective identity formation must be conceived of as an interactive process because it is constructed, negotiated, and maintained through ongoing interactions linking people. Taylor and Whittier (1992, p. 111) propose three dimensions in the ongoing construction of collective identities— boundaries, consciousness, and negotiation. They define boundaries as the social, psychological, and physical structures that highlight differences between subordinates and dominants; consciousness as the interpretive frameworks used by challenging groups to define and realize their interests; and negotiations as the symbolic and everyday actions subordinate groups take up to resist and restructure existing systems of domination. Regardless of theoretical emphasis, social movement scholars agree that collective social protest can take many different forms. Based on a fluid conception of social movements, Staggenborg (1998, p. 182) uses the notion of social movement communities “to encompass all actors who share and advance the goals of a social movement” regardless of the site and form of their resistance. It is through the notion of multiple and fluid forms of social movements that I come to think of women netball athletes and administrators as part of the broader nonracial sports movement in South Africa. Although South African netballers do not represent a formal social movement nor do the players necessarily identify as political activists, they do intentionally mobilize to challenge the existing order in their sport. Relying on theories of political opportunity structures and collective identity formation, I elucidate how netballers contribute to racial transformation in the new South Africa. Data and Methodological Approach The data used here are part of a larger project3 that examines sports and nation-building processes in postapartheid South Africa. The data were collected during two 3-month stays in South Africa during 1999 and 2000. The inspiration and design of this larger project were grounded in Black feminist and Third World feminist scholarship4 that attends to the “micropolitics of context, subjectivity, and struggle, as well as to the macropolitics of global economic and political systems and processes” (Mohanty, 2004, p. 223). This diverse literature calls for historically specific, locally based analyses (Mama, 1995, pp. 8-9) that emphasize the simultaneity of oppressions and the multiplicity of women’s social locations (Collins, 2000, pp. 227-228), as well as focus on the interplay between social structures and women’s agency (Mohanty, 1991, p. 56). Only select data from this broader project are used for this analysis. I rely primarily on semistructured interviews with 14 elite netball athletes. The interviews were conducted at the 2000 South African Netball Championships, a weeklong tournament including over 600 athletes from rural and urban South Africa. The sample of athletes was randomly drawn from a list of players from the top 10 most competitive teams. The interviews focused on: (a) the participants’ sporting histories; (b) the personal, structural, and organizational changes within netball; 62 Pelak and (c) the athletes’ attitudes and thoughts about gender, race, and class relations within sports. All interviews were tape recorded, transcribed in full, and analyzed with the assistance of the computer software program NUD*IST. The ages of the athletes ranged from 20 to 36 years and averaged 25 years. The racial/ethnic/cultural backgrounds of interviewees approximate their relative representation within competitive netball. According to a representative survey that I conducted at the championship tournament, 47.2% of netball participants identified as White and/or Afrikaner, 43.1% as Black and/or African, 5.2% as Colored, 3.2% as Indian, and 1.2% as having mixed racial/ethnic/cultural heritage. The analysis of the setting is also informed by semistructured interviews with eight top-level sport administrators, archival evidence, and surveys from 251 netball participants. The sample of administrators was purposively drawn based on the administrator’s position in the governance of netball and national sports bodies. Three administrators were board members of Netball South Africa (NSA), the governing body of netball in the country; one was a provincial netball administrator; one was a national administrator for netball at the school level; and three were from the South African Sports Commission, the national umbrella organization for sports. The archival data includes newspaper articles on women’s netball between 1994 and 2000 (obtained using SAbinet’s South Africa News electronic database), written press releases and policy statements from NSA, and a written transcript of the speech delivered by the Minister of Sport at the 2000 Netball Championships. The survey of 251 netball participants (athletes and managers) was conducted at the 2000 Netball Championships and designed to assess the demographic background of participants, the structural barriers they experience in competitive sport, and their attitudes regarding racial transformation in netball. Self-administered survey forms were distributed to members of 30 of the top 40 regional teams participating at the tournament.5 Twenty-four out of the 30 teams sampled returned completed forms for a team response rate of 80%. Of the estimated 382 individuals who made up the 30 teams sampled, 251 usable surveys were collected for an individual response rate of 68%. Overall, I adopt a methodological strategy of “passionate objectivity” as described by Hargreaves (1997, p. 193). The aim of this strategy rests in my desire to draw valid conclusions, however partial, about the experiences of South African women netballers through the use of systematic observations while appreciating that my representations are selected, framed, and mediated by my own voice and experiences (Harding, 1991). To understand who netballers were at the end of the 20th century, I choose interview excerpts that are both characteristic and/or unique among the responses. To insure participants’ anonymity, I use pseudonyms to identify the respondents. Given that the language used to represent race and race relations in South Africa has been and continues to be contentious, variable, and context specific (Jung, 2000), I use the racial/ethnic identifiers that the informants used to describe themselves. When not directly referencing an individual’s selfidentity, I draw on a convention of the Black Consciousness Movement, referring to South Africans of African, Asian, and Colored identities as Black. I also frequently use quotations around racial terms to remind the reader of their social and political construction (Omi and Winant, 1994; Winant 2000). As an analytical starting point, I now turn to examine the shifting political opportunity structures in netball. Athletes as Agents of Change 63 Shifting Political Opportunity Structures Organized netball first emerged in English-speaking “White schools” in the late 1950s then quickly diffused to Afrikaans-speaking schools. By the 1960s, as one administrator remarked, “Afrikaner women owned netball in South Africa.” Experiences described by older Afrikaans-speaking administrators suggest that netball offered Afrikaner women an acceptable “ladylike” sport that contributed to the larger project of Afrikaner nationalism while not challenging dominant norms of femininity and womanhood espoused in Afrikaner communities. The early development of netball corresponded with the emergence of the nonracial sports movement. The international sports boycott directly affected netball from 1970 until 1994—no international netball teams traveled to or from South Africa during this period. During the late 1970s, in the context of mounting international pressure and shifting political demands, the apartheid government instituted a number of so-called multinational sport reforms that encouraged the development of separate sports federations for Africans, Whites, Coloreds, and Asians but did little to alter the dominance of Whites (Booth, 1998). In response to these reforms, White netball administrators started training camps in Black townships and lobbied Black schools to offer netball for girls. The mission to “spread the gospel of netball,” as described by Liezell, a White netball administrator, increased Black women’s participation in netball. The “triple oppression of class, colour and gender,” however, severely limited opportunities for Black women in organized sports (Roberts, 1992, p. 3). Disparities in sporting opportunities among South African women during this period were evidenced in the number of netball facilities available in White areas versus African areas. According to the South African 1977 Official Year Book, there was one netball court for every 20,035 individuals in White designated areas and one court for every 310,443 individuals in African areas. As apartheid was being dismantled during the late 1980s, formal talks to unify the four racially segregated associations began. The talks were extremely contentious and saturated with historical distrust and suspicion. It was not until 1994 that a racially inclusive national governing body was formed. The formation of Netball South Africa (NSA) marked a major change in the political opportunity structure within netball and many seized the moment to articulate their grievances. At the first national netball competition after unification in 1994, Black players protested what they perceived as racial discrimination in the selection of national players (Motsei, 1994). In 1995, dissent re-emerged around an all-White team traveling to the All Africa Games (“Stop NSC meddling,” 1995). Amidst this conflict the president of NSA was pressured to resign, and shortly thereafter the executive committee was reconfigured. Again, in 1996, Black women organized protests at the national championships and stopped the competition from proceeding. The protestors argued that racial transformation in netball was taking too long, and that White leaders were not working hard enough to integrate Black women into netball at all levels. The problems became so intense that officials from the Ministry of Sport and the National Sports Council stepped in to arbitrate. Another shake up occurred at the 1999 National Championships, and the executive committee again was replaced. This time an African woman was appointed president of NSA, and a diverse executive committee was installed. 64 Pelak By the end of the 1990s, netball was in a new place. The following quote from Nkosi, a high-level administrator at the South African Sports Commission, describes the unique struggle within netball: I think netball is much more advanced than say cricket in dealing with [racial] transformation issues. They have been through the painful process longer. Netball is still going to have problems, but its problems will not be transformation-related. I think it is because they have not taken short cuts. They have seen through all the pitfalls that were there. You can see the pitfalls with rugby, with cricket, and hockey; you can name most of the sports. You can sort it by the grumbles. It is still there, the stomach is still grumbling, you know. Now and again, you will get the outbursts [within netball], but look at the national team. The top seven netball players, four or three of them are Black. . . . They have become more sensitive and more innovative in dealing with [racial] transformation than other sports. Many have left netball to avoid the pain of change, but those who have remained and have recently joined are dealing with the “grumbling in their stomachs,” those gut-wrenching feelings that accompany challenges to beliefs and practices that have been reproduced for centuries. Despite the positive changes, netballers still face the formidable task of constructing a unified collective identity that both transcends race and incorporates racial/ethnic/cultural differences. How do netballers come together, despite their differences, to develop shared meanings, experiences, and, most importantly, a connection to collective efforts that are greater than their individual interests? I now turn to the question of collective identity formation among netball participants at the moment of the 2000 National Netball Championship. Reconstructing and Reinforcing Racial Boundaries Collective identities are built on boundaries that mark the social territories of groups by highlighting differences (Gamson, 1997; Melucci, 1996; Taylor and Whittier, 1992, 1995). Separate collective identities of racial groups during the apartheid era were established by an array of boundary-marking mechanisms. Indeed, it is hard to find another nation state in the 20th century that spent as much energy and as many resources to establish and maintain strict racial boundaries as did South Africa. Given the legacies of colonialism and apartheid, one would expect that the process of dismantling racial boundaries among women in netball would be difficult. In this section, I draw attention to the ways that the politics of identity, a racial quota policy, spatial segregation, and discursive practices are reinforcing and reconstructing racial boundaries among netballers. In response to Black women’s collective protests during the mid-1990s, netball leaders instituted a number of affirmative action policies in order to increase Black women’s participation and influence. The most controversial policy was that of racial integration quotas for provincial teams competing at national tournaments. As a starting point, in 1995, racial quotas were enforced at competitions of the under-19 age division. By 2000, quotas were enforced at the highest level of competition—the National Netball Championships. Provincial teams lost Athletes as Agents of Change 65 points in the tournament if they did not have at least a 40% representation of “Blacks” or “Whites” on their player rosters. In addition, the policy required that there be at least two players of the underrepresented race playing on the court at all times. Tensions surrounding this policy at the championship tournament were palpable. As one would expect, the policy received more support among those identifying as Black and/or African than those identifying as White and/or Afrikaans.6 The following comment by Kay, a 21-year-old White player, expresses an extreme posture toward the policy: Um, in South Africa it’s, it’s, everything goes with, it’s Black, okay. They must come in everything you do. And it’s not fair, because I think the best player must get the position in the team, and um, it doesn’t work like that. They must be in the team. And in the end, the White people will move out, the best players will move out to give them space. So, I don’t know if I have a future in netball. A lot of my friends went overseas just to work. But I don’t think that running is the answer. To me, just to go overseas and run away from them, it doesn’t help. That’s what they want. They want to take over our country. So, I don’t want to give them that satisfaction. The boundaries between “us” and “them” are clearly marked in racial terms by Kay. She sees her space in netball (and South Africa) as being threatened and invaded by Blacks. She does not seem willing to redefine boundaries to share space with Blacks and build a unified South Africa. As a follow-up to the above comment, I asked Kay whether she saw South Africa as a rainbow nation. No, there’s not even Black in the rainbow [she laughs]. So I don’t know where they get that expression from. No, I don’t see a rainbow actually. Usually it was apartheid between White and Black, now it’s changed the other way around. It’s between Black and White. Kay rejects the symbolic imagery of a rainbow nation, which has been invoked by leaders such as Nelson Mandela in order to build solidarity among South Africans. Her comment regarding the change from “White to Black” to “Black to White” reflects her belief that Whites are disadvantaged in the new South Africa just as Blacks were disadvantaged under apartheid. Although these sentiments represent an extreme position, they suggest a highly contentious environment in which sisterhood or unity among netballers is not predetermined based on a shared gender identity (Mohanty, 1991). Paradoxically, the use of binary racial categories in the quota policy reinforces the rigid racial boundaries that the policy aims to dismantle. Although the policy challenges racial inequalities, the designation of players as “Black” or “White” simultaneously underscores racial divisions. This paradox is highlighted in a story about the implementation of the policy at the tournament that was shared by Marika, a 28-year-old White woman. Well, I think yesterday the first strange thing happened. One of our players got injured, one of our Black players. And we had to put a White player in her place and we had to take another White player off and put a Black player in her place. That’s minor and that will sort itself out. It wasn’t a problem 66 Pelak whatsoever but you had to think about it. It is very new to us that you have to actually go and figure out. You have to adapt. Marika’s story of her team complying with the policy requirement of having two players of the underrepresented group on the court at all times illustrates how challenging racial exclusion in netball can contribute to reifying racial categories. The binary construction of netballers as either “Black” or “White” reflects historical power relations, but such a construction also contradicts the multiple racial/ ethnic/cultural categories to which athletes identify and the fluid and situational nature of identities in South Africa (Jung, 2000). Although netball administrators maintain that the term “Black” is inclusive of all “non-White” South Africans, the meaning of the term varies widely among athletes, who come from all across South Africa where regional differences are stark. Many use the term Black to refer only to Africans rather than to refer collectively to all persons of color. The ambiguities of the racial terms, as well as the historical tensions between apartheid-defined groups, are evident in an exchange with Nomsa, a 36year-old Black woman. Talking about tensions between Coloreds and Africans in netball, Nomsa said: Coloreds don’t have a standing place. They don’t know where they are. . . . They must just decide whether they are White or Black and then we can know where they fall. If you watch the [X] Province team, they’ve got one Colored girl. And with us [Africans], the team is only White. We say it’s only White. Because once she’s there, she’s White. . . . And the surnames, one of them I think, it’s Johnson or Peterson. It’s White! So, they say they’ve met the quota system in that fashion. But, if they say Black, let it be a Black, you see the face is Black. In a follow-up question, I asked Nomsa if she considered Africans, Coloreds, and Asians as “Black.” Hmm [pause]. But, if they [Coloreds] are with Whites, they don’t consider themselves as Blacks. That is the problem. They consider themselves as Blacks if they have a problem with the Whites. Then they’ll be calling themselves Blacks. And, if things are smooth and nice, they are Whites. I responded by asking, “It sounds like you don’t trust Coloreds?” She answered: No, no. You cannot, you cannot trust Coloreds. We can stand here and say, “Blacks this side and Whites this side.” I’m telling you, they are going to fall on the White side. This exchange not only highlights the political tensions between Africans and Coloreds but also illustrates how the political meaning and boundaries of racial categories are themselves fluid and situational. Nomsa discursively marks boundaries through references to “we” and “they,” the color of one’s face, a person’s surname, and political alliances. She also uses the quota policy to construct strict boundaries between “Whites” and “Blacks,” with “Coloreds” having to choose a side. The politics of identity in netball, like that of the broader society, are critical to boundary marking and the negotiation of new collective identities. Despite the ongoing reinforcement of racial categories, players also talked about how rigid racial divisions were loosening up. Assertions expressing the need Athletes as Agents of Change 67 for tolerance and acceptance of differences were common. Lynne, a 23-year-old Afrikaans-speaking woman, explains how netball itself serves as a site for bringing women together: If you put yourself in the team, then you must be there and you must accept the other players. It is not that you are White or Black; you can’t think that she is White and she is not. People are different in culture or color, or whatever. But, all of us are people; all of us are in the world and living together. Maybe tonight we sit down and have a talk. The White and the Black differ very much. Because [of] our religion, we do this and this. In our culture, we believe in this and this. And then, you see the differences but you can do nothing about it. You must be accepting of one another and play the game. Echoing the desire to be unified, Zingisa, a 23-year-old Black woman, employs the frame of teamwork and sportsmanship: “I think sportsmen, whoever they are, should build sportsmanship, no matter what culture, or whatever—we should be one. We shouldn’t judge each other by color. We should be one.” For Danielle, a 24-year-old White/Afrikaner woman, the love of netball brings people together: If you love your sport, you play the sport. So it doesn’t matter who is with you in the team. It all depends on—not depends—it helps if you’re all together. That’s why netball is such a lovely sport. So it doesn’t matter who or what you are, it’s a team playing together. The above quotes demonstrate the willingness on the part of netball athletes to accept differences of race, culture, and color. The metaphors of teamwork and a shared commitment to netball appear critical to transcending divisions. Integrating geographically based netball teams is extremely difficult in the context of rigid spatial divisions. Although racial residential segregation decreased slightly in the 1990s, South Africa is still one of the most spatially segregated nations in the world (Christopher, 2001). Movement across communities, which was restricted during apartheid through Influx Control policies, Pass Laws, and Group Areas Acts, are today constrained by structural inequalities, high costs of transportation, and perceptions of crime and safety. In general, White women’s fear of crime constrains their visiting historically Black townships in order to play netball, and Black women’s lack of financial resources limits their traveling to historically White dominated central cities in which most sporting facilities are available. Sheila, a 22-year-old White woman, expresses her fears of traveling to Black townships: We [Whites] don’t dare go and live there [in Black townships]. There is a lot of murder and things going on there as well. So we don’t dare go near their places. Like townships and things like that, we don’t go near that. It is too scary. Nomsa, in contrast, describes the financial and logistic difficulties experienced by her “Black” teammates when they travel from Soweto to Johannesburg to compete: When we travel to Johannesburg, we take taxis. We collect 10 rand per player and we take a taxi. They drop us [at the courts] and then they come long after the games have finished. The Whites drive their own cars. After the games, 68 Pelak they take their cars and leave us there. If maybe one of them is nice enough, she can take you to the nearest point but not all the way home. Divergent experiences of traveling to team practices and matches builds resentments and works against constructing a unified “we” among netballers. Although the racial quota policy demands integration, spatial segregation, Whites’ fear of Black neighborhoods, and contrasting material realities among South Africans hinder the integration of teams. To further elucidate the reconstruction of boundaries, I turn to explore how collective identity formation within netball is shaped by netballers’ shared consciousness. Forging Group Consciousness of Intersecting Inequalities Boundaries locate persons as members of an insider group, but it is group consciousness that imparts a larger significance to a collectivity. According to Taylor and Whittier (1992), the development of a shared consciousness is an ongoing process that crystallizes when a group of individuals realize their common interests and develop a shared understanding of their situation. I use the concept of consciousness to refer to the interpretive frameworks used by netball athletes to understand and frame their diverse experiences. Specifically, I am interested in how interpretations of individual or group disadvantage and privilege are articulated in terms of race, gender, and class structures rather than individual or group failings and efforts. Rigid gender segregation in organized sports creates a context that encourages the development of female athletes’ gender consciousness. Given the visibility of men’s sporting opportunities, female athletes typically use male athletes of their own racial/ethnic and class backgrounds as references to understand their circumstances. It is through gendered experiences within and connected to sports that netballers forged a group gender consciousness. The following story from Zingisa shows how interpersonal interactions serve as lessons on the ideology of male superiority and the trivialization of women’s sports: I think they [men] are scared that women will be superior. They don’t want us to be superior; they want to keep us inferior. I think, people just think that women can’t do it. If I am talking to someone, and they see my tracksuit, and I tell them that I play netball, they may ask, “You’ve been overseas?” I say, “Yes, twice.” And they just, especially men, they go, “Wow, I didn’t know that netball was that serious.” They don’t take us seriously; they don’t think netball is a serious sport. They think it is boring. It is because they never take time to go and watch. Interactions within families can also raise athletes’ gender consciousness. In the next quote, Cara, a 25-year-old Afrikaner woman, talks about gender socialization and the differential support for men and women athletes within Afrikaansspeaking families: Men in rugby have more support. But, that is our own problem because the thing is we in South Africa, especially the Afrikaner people, the Afrikaansspeaking people, our parents tell us to be respectful of the men, to do what the men want, to listen to him, to follow him, to whatever. And your mother Athletes as Agents of Change 69 tells you that if you are playing tennis with your boyfriend, let him win, don’t let him lose. Because men in Africa don’t like losing, they don’t like women to be stronger than them, they don’t like women to run them. I know rugby; I know the rules. I know the rules for cricket. Huh, you take the man in the street and he won’t even know how many players play netball. And that is our parents’ fault I think. You have to teach your son and your daughter to have respect for one another and we are taught to respect the man and to go with his things. Cara’s thoughts lend support to the argument that sports play a central role in the construction of male dominance within the Afrikaner community (Grundlingh, 1995). Her awareness of gender imbalances is grounded in her personal experiences of growing up in a family where girls let their boyfriends win. Similar excerpts from other informants suggest that it is through accumulated experiences of the trivialization of their athleticism and the gender hierarchies in sport that women in netball develop a shared gender consciousness. Whereas athletes generally expressed their gender consciousness through stories about interpersonal relationships, administrators expressed their gender consciousness through observations of institutional inequalities. In the next excerpt, Dorthea, a 60-year-old White administrator, reflects on the multiple and intersecting layers of economic and gender privilege in South African sports: I think for the biggest women’s sport code in this country, we are getting a raw deal, partly because it is still a man’s world. Sponsors are more inclined to give money to men’s sport than women’s sport. If you look in the newspaper and see how much money is pumped into male sports and you look at what is coming into netball, and especially what we are getting from the people in charge, by far, it is not enough. At present, we are struggling to make ends meet. The clubs in the regions, they have to find various ways and means of getting money to run their clubs in a fairly organized way. And for some clubs, it is very difficult. Dorthea’s assessments were affirmed by the Minister of Sport in his welcoming remarks at the opening ceremonies of the 2000 National Netball Championship: “At a time that male-dominated sports are claiming the overwhelming lion’s share of the publicity and sponsorship cake, netball is continuously being treated as no more than a time-passing social activity for young girls and women” (Balfour, 2000). It is no secret that women’s sports, including netball, take a back seat to men’s sports in South Africa. Not all South African women, however, experience gendered inequalities in the same way (Hargreaves, 1997, 2000; Jones, 2001; Roberts, 1992). The varying levels of race and class privileges and disadvantages among netballers mediate their experiences of gender inequalities and, thus, influence the development of a group consciousness. The subtext of a comment by Lynne, an economically advantaged 23-year-old Afrikaner woman, illustrates how race/class privilege can mediate an athlete’s concern about gender inequalities: I don’t know, I think everyone has the right to live and play. For me, every woman has the right, you know, to play netball. And, every man has the right to play soccer or rugby or whatever. For me I really don’t really think about that because I am just playing the sport. If I don’t like it or love it, I won’t 70 Pelak play. Cause, I have opportunities to play tennis or whatever, or squash, or horse riding. Lynne uses a rights discourse in talking about gendered opportunities within sport and reinforces the status quo of sex-typed sports by stating that women have the right to play netball, and men have the right to play soccer and rugby. Lynne’s race and class privileges create sporting opportunities in tennis, squash, and horse riding and, thus, might work to limit her concerns about gender inequalities. Unrecognized race and class privilege thus operate to weaken a group gender consciousness and ultimately the formation of a new collective identity. Whereas most netballers invoked a structural framework to explain gender imbalances, when it came to understanding race and class inequalities, many athletes relied on individual based frameworks. A fragmented race and class group consciousness among netball athletes is illustrated by contrasting explanations for why Black women frequently drop out of teams. I asked Danielle, who identified as White and Afrikaans, why she thought Black women drop out of netball. She responded: Well it depends. Um, I don’t know. It all depends on let’s say if they can’t keep up with the training, or can’t keep up with the techniques, that can be a problem. I don’t think money is a problem. That I don’t think. So it all depends on what they can do, or want to do. If the want is there, I think they’ll probably stay there. When I asked Nomsa, who identifies as Black, the same question, she said: They normally drop out because of financial problems. And it’s heartbreaking, really, heartbreaking. . . . This thing of Black women not wanting to play netball, it’s not like that. I’m 36 years old and I’m still playing today. So, these women are not playing because it’s costly. The assessment offered by the White Afrikaner player is based on a framework of individual skills and desires, while the Black player interprets the problem as one of financial hardship. Netballers also hold divergent beliefs about meritocracy and individual choice. In the following quote, Sheila talks about how an individual’s desire and heart can overcome financial difficulties: It is difficult for some of them [Blacks] and it is difficult for some of us [Whites]. That is the people that I see. I want the best coaching, but to get the best coaching I must drive 50 kilometers to the court and 50 kilometers home. You understand. But it is my choice because I want to have the best coaching because I want to have my colours, my national colours [to get on the national team]. But, ok, they have transport problems sometimes, I can understand that. But if you really, really want to do something, put your heart to it, there must be a way. Sometimes I feel that they [Blacks] just take it for granted. Although Sheila recognizes the transportation difficulties facing some players, she believes it is ultimately the individual’s choice and effort that secures access to quality coaching. Athletes as Agents of Change 71 Without suggesting that racial/ethnic identity directly determines race/class consciousness, the divergent interpretive frameworks employed by athletes of diverse backgrounds suggest a fragmented collective consciousness of intersecting inequalities among netballers. The lack of a shared consciousness among netballers constrains the construction of a unified collective identity and ultimately the emergence of collective action against structured inequalities facing netball. Negotiating Power Relations Through Everyday Interactions Whereas shared boundaries and group consciousness lay the foundation for collective identity formation, negotiations refer to the symbols and everyday actions that groups use to resist and restructure existing systems of domination. Taylor and Whittier (1992, p. 118) use the concept of negotiations to call attention to the “forms of political activism embedded in everyday life” that blur the distinction between “doing” and “being” on the part of social-movement actors. Drawing on this conceptualization, I highlight some of the ways in which restructuring historical power arrangements within netball involves forging new interpersonal attachments and developing new modes of relating across historical boundaries. The appointment of the first African president of NSA serves as a salient symbol of change in netball. The following quote from Thenjiwe, a Black woman administrator, conveys the symbolic importance of the new president for transforming the image of netball from a conservative White sport of the past to a racially inclusive sport of the future: Netball was just not well accepted by most South Africans. . . . Whatever people would say about netball, it was very negative. We had to change. I think the image of netball is no longer one of being White. People can start seeing more racial integration because it’s now headed by a Black woman. It is the first time in the country that netball has a Black woman as president. And I think that has brought a lot of acceptance of netball. Even if we’re not yet there, I think the process is there. We are moving. Another powerful symbol used to transform the image of netball is the inclusion of Black players on the national team. Racial diversity among elite national squads is the litmus test used by many South Africans to measure racial transformation. This point was illustrated previously, in the section on Shifting Political Opportunity Structures, by the comment made about the racial diversity of the national netball team by Nkosi of the South African Sports Commission. Beyond the symbolism, the integration of teams has contributed to reducing the social distance between women of diverse social and cultural backgrounds. In response to a question about the status of race relations within her team, Portia, a 27-year-old Black/African woman, talked about sharing a hotel room with White teammates: “Things are fine. If I can say this, I’m also sleeping with them [Whites] in the very same room; I mean we’re sharing this hotel, four in each room. I don’t think there is a problem, on my side.” Although the idea of “Blacks” and “Whites” sharing a hotel room might not seem like a transgressive event, in the context of South Africa this everyday action is a significant change. With the integration of teams, the everyday act of sharing a hotel room can be a means of building group solidarity and renegotiating power. 72 Pelak The decrease of social distance between “Black” and “White” athletes within the context of “integrated” teams, however, does not mean that historical relations are automatically transformed. The reworking of historical relations is complicated by and deeply entangled with the legacies of colonialist ideologies and practices. The following excerpt from an interview with Sheila, who identifies as White, illustrates how neocolonial relations can be maintained despite increasing racial/ ethnic/cultural diversity. Speaking to the question of racialized tensions within her team, Sheila remarked: No, we don’t have any problems. We are a very nice team. They do what they want to do and we do what we want to do. We had this situation the other day where there was one [African] girl in our team; she just took off her top in the middle [of the gymnasium]. And I was like, “excuse me what are your doing?” She said, “I’m hot.” I said, “But you don’t do that here. Everybody is hot, wait until you get in the change room and do it there.” But for them it is nothing to just take off your top there. She still had her bra on but it still was in front of everybody. It is not like she was a small lady, she was a 10-D [large breast size], I would say. So they are learning from us as well. If they do something wrong, we are like, no that wasn’t correct. Not for us, but in the eyes of other people, that wasn’t correct. So they are learning different kinds of things. Sheila describes her team as problem-free and very nice while discursively reinforcing the division between we and they. Although she states that “they do what they want” and “we do what we want,” she tells a story of policing the other. Sheila suggests that her African teammate violated some modesty code and needed to be taught the correct behavior. This interaction is reminiscent of colonial discourses and the historical surveillance of racialized, gendered, and classed bodies. The manner in which Sheila positions herself as educator of her African teammate invokes the history of the “civilizing the natives” project in which British missionaries during the late nineteenth century used cricket to mold African men into “gentlemen” (Odendaal, 1988). Like cricket, netball at the turn of the 21st century might be serving as a site to instruct Black women in the mores of White middleclass femininity. Despite the unfinished transformation of netball, “the process is there” as Thenjiwe asserted previously. The ongoing renegotiation of power relations between Black women and White women and the construction of a new collective identity involve not only structural changes, such as affirmative action policies, but also symbols and everyday interactions in the lives of netball athletes and administrators. As Mohanty (1991, p. 58) argues, a shared collective identity among women of diverse racial backgrounds can only be forged through concrete historical practices, such as those on the netball court. Conclusions The findings of this study contribute to our understanding of the potential role athletes and sport administrators play in social-change projects. The centering of this analysis on relations among South African women extends the gender and sport literature that concentrates on relations between women and men. Examining contentious race relations among women within sports also challenges the Athletes as Agents of Change 73 universalization of women athletes (Dewar, 1993) and demonstrates how a shared gender status among women is not sufficient for mobilizing against gender inequality within sports (Mohanty, 1991; Ray & Korteweg, 1999). The study’s focus on a popular South African sport dominated and controlled by women addresses the androcentric bias of the existing literature on race and sports in post-apartheid South Africa and illustrates that women athletes are making a significant contribution to nation building in the new South Africa. Borrowing from political opportunity and collective identity theories, I conceptualized netball athletes and administrators as political actors who continue the nonracial sport movement by collectively challenging historical race relations within netball. Although netball might not constitute a formal social movement organization, the waves of collective action within netball are consistent with the basic goals of the South African nonracial sport movement. Guided by political opportunity theory, these data show that the democratic transition of South Africa undercut state support for the status quo within netball and weakened White netball leaders’ ability to control the sport. Unlike male leaders of White dominated sports such as rugby and cricket, White female leaders of netball did not have the economic capital to “throw at the problem” and, thus, were more vulnerable to challenges. Black women netballers seized the new opportunities this fragmentation created and organized against unequal power relations. The collective identity shared by Black women made it possible for them to articulate and act on their grievances of racial discrimination. As a result, by the end of the 1990s, netball had its first African woman president, a diverse executive committee and national team, and strong affirmative action policies that mandated racial integration. Despite the changes, a new collective identity has yet to solidify. Using the three dimensions of collective identity formation identified by Taylor and Whittier (1992) —boundaries, consciousness, and negotiations—this analysis examined the ongoing process of collective identity formation among elite netball athletes. The data show that historical racial boundaries have been both redefined and reaffirmed. The racial integration of teams, the metaphors of sportsmanship and teamwork, and the commitment to netball encouraged the dismantling of racial boundaries, whereas the discursive binary construction of racial categories and the persistence of spatial segregation and material inequalities contributed to maintaining racial boundaries. These findings also suggest that netballers, in general, saw racial/color/ cultural differences as obstacles to overcome and tolerate rather than assets to benefit from and embrace. This posture contradicts the insights of some South African feminists who argue that building an effective racially diverse women’s movement in South Africa requires that women not only recognize differences among women but also embrace and celebrate those differences (Lemon, 2001; Meintjes, 1998; Salo & Mama, 2001). Moreover, although netball athletes and administrators expressed a shared consciousness of gender inequalities, they expressed divergent interpretations of race and class inequalities. The fragmentation of a collective consciousness of intersecting systems of inequality (Collins, 2000) weakens netballers’ collective identity and, thus, their potential challenge of persistent gender, race, and class inequalities within sports. There is, however, evidence that netballers are continuing to make strides in developing a group consciousness of structural inequalities. During a 2003 trip to South Africa to present these findings to research participants, I talked with several netball leaders. They reported that the racial quotas 74 Pelak for regional teams have been replaced by racial targets, and that the intense racial tensions present at the 2000 National Championship have subsided. Moreover, they suggested that issues of class inequalities and class differences have moved to the fore. It appears that the increase in racial integration and the lessening of racial tensions have created space for netballers to disentangle the race and class barriers facing South African women. This analysis also illustrates that, through daily interactions within teams and the promotion of new symbols, the image of netball has shifted from “a White sport” to “a racially diverse sport.” Nonetheless, the story Sheila told of “teaching” her African teammate the proper morals regarding taking off clothing in the gymnasium poignantly suggests the persistence of neocolonial relations. We do not learn about the reaction from her African teammate, but the confidence with which Sheila told the story suggests that her reprimand went unchallenged. Despite the difficulties inherent in negotiating the legacies of colonialism and apartheid, this analysis suggests that netball has made significant changes while other popular sports have not. The recent report of a shift from focusing only on racial inequalities to giving attention to economic-based inequalities suggests that netball athletes and administrators have continued the work of negotiating a group consciousness and building a new collective identity. The findings presented here suggest several important directions for future research. First, sport scholars should consider drawing on social movement theories to further our understanding of sports as a site of social change and athletes as political actors. The analytical tool of collective identity formation is particularly well suited for examining how interactions, symbols, and structures at the micro and macro levels contribute to constructing imagined sporting communities. Second, even though national political and economic elites might not recognize or celebrate female athletes’ contributions to nation building, sport scholars should not perpetuate this gender bias by ignoring them. Future studies are needed to further our understanding of female athletes’ roles in nation-building projects. Third, more research is needed on relations among women in sports. Examining power relations among women can produce insights into why patriarchal relations within sports have yet to be transformed. As shown in this study, a collective identity among women athletes cannot be assumed based solely on shared gender status. Finally, it is my hope that this study will inspire more research on South African women athletes, especially by South African women themselves. The sociological literature on women’s experiences within sport is extremely Euro-American centric. We know very little about African women’s sporting experiences. Given the growing popularity of competitive sports among Third World women globally, scholarly attention is warranted. Acknowledgments This study was supported by grants from the Elizabeth D. Gee Fund for Research on Women and the Departments of Women’s Studies and Sociology and the Office of International Studies at the Ohio State University. I am grateful to Timothy Curry, Jessica Price, Townsand Price-Spratlen, Barbara Ellen Smith, Verta Taylor, and anonymous SSJ reviewers for their invaluable comments on previous drafts of this manuscript. I also acknowledge that without the generous assistance of many in South Africa this research would not have been possible. Athletes as Agents of Change 75 References Baca Zinn, M., & Thornton Dill, B. (1996). Theorizing difference from multiracial feminism. Feminist Studies, 22, 321-331. Balfour, N. (2000). Address by the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Ngconde Balfour, on the occasion of the opening of the Unibank 2000 South African Netball Championships. Unpublished transcript. Booth, D. (1998). The race game: Sports and politics in South Africa. London: Frank Cass. Christopher, A. (2001). First steps in the desegregation of South African towns and cities, 1991–6. Development Southern Africa, 18, 457-469. Collins, P.H. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge. Dewar, A. (1993). Would all the generic women in sport please stand up? Challenges facing feminist sport sociology. Quest, 45, 211-229. Farquharson, K., & Marjoribanks, T. (2003). Transforming the Springboks: Re-imagining the South African nation through sport. Social Dynamics, 29(1), 27-48. Gamson, J. (1997). Messages of exclusion: Gender, movements, and symbolic boundaries. Gender & Society, 11, 178-199. Grundlingh, A. (1995). Playing for power: Rugby, Afrikaner nationalism and masculinity in South Africa. In A. Grundlingh, A. Odendaal, & B. Spies (Eds.), Beyond the tryline: Rugby and South African society (pp. 106-135). Johannesburg: Ravan. Harding, S. (1991). Whose science? Whose knowledge?: Thinking from women’s lives. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Hargreaves, J. (1997). Women’s Sport, development, and cultural diversity: The South African experience. Women’s Studies International Forum, 20(2), 191-220. Hargreaves, J. (2000). Heroines of sport: The politics of difference and identity. London: Routledge. International Federation of Netball Associations. (2001). About netball. Retrieved January 24, 2005, from http://www.netball.org/thesport.htm Jenkins, J.C. (1985). The politics of insurgency. New York: Columbia University Press. Jenkins, J.C., & Perrow, C. (1977). Insurgency of the powerless: Farm worker movements (1946-1972). American Sociological Review, 42, 249-68. Jones, D. (2001). In pursuit of empowerment: Sensei Nellie Kleinsmidt, race, and gender challenges in South Africa. In J.A. Mangan & F. Hong (Eds.), Freeing the female body (pp. 219-236). London: Cass. Jung, C. (2000). Then I was Black: South African political identities in transition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Lemon, J. (2001). Reflections on the women’s movement in South Africa: Historical and theoretical perspectives. Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies, 6 [online serial]. Retrieved January 14, 2005, from www.safundi.com Mama, A. (1995). Beyond the masks: Race, gender and subjectivity. London: Routledge. McAdam, D. (1982). Tactical innovation and the pace of insurgency. American Sociological Review, 48, 735-54. McAdam, D. (1983). Political process and the development of Black insurgency, 19301970. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Meintjes, S. (1998). Gender, nationalism and transformation: Difference and commonality in South Africa’s past and present. In R. Wilford & R. Miller (Eds.), Women, ethnicity and nationalism: The politics of transition (pp. 62-86). London: Routledge. 76 Pelak Melucci, A. (1996). Challenging codes: Collective action in the information age. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Mohanty, C.T. (1991). Under Western eyes: Feminist scholarship and colonial discourses. In C.T. Mohanty, A. Russo, & L. Torres (Eds.), Third World women and the politics of feminism (pp. 51-80). Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Mohanty, C.T. (2004). Feminism without borders: Decolonizing theory, practicing solidarity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Mohanty, C.T., Russo, A., & Torres, L. (Eds.). (1991). Third World women and the politics of feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Motsei, J. (1994, August 15). Controversy over netball selections. Sowetan, p. 25. Nauright, J. (1997). Sport, cultures and identities in South Africa. London: Leicester University Press. Netball South Africa. (2000, July). Ntambi Ravele, President of Netball South Africa. [Press Release]. Odendaal, A. (1988). South Africa’s Black Victorians: Sport and society in South Africa in the nineteenth century. In J.A. Mangan (Ed.), Pleasure, Profit, Proselytism: British Culture and Sport at Home and Abroad (1700–1914) (pp. 193-214). London: Frank Cass. Omi, M., & Winant, H. (1994). Racial formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. New York: Routledge. Pelak, C.F. (2002). Nation building in post-apartheid South Africa: Transforming gender and race relations through sports. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Ohio State University, Columbus. Ray, R., & Korteweg, A.C. (1999). Women’s movements in the Third World: Identity, mobilization, and autonomy. Annual Review of Sociology, 25, 47-71. Roberts, C. (1992). Against the grain: Women and sport in South Africa. Cape Town: Township Publishing Co-operative. Salo, E., & Mama, A. (2001). Talking about feminisms in Africa. Agenda, 50, 58-63. Sport Information & Science Agency. (1997). Participation of women in sport in South Africa (Conducted by BMI, Sport Info Ltd). Johannesburg, South Africa. Staggenborg, S. (1998). Social movement communities and cycles of protest: The emergence and maintenance of a local women’s movement. Social Problems, 45, 180204. Stop NSC meddling, appeals SA netball executive. (1995, September 7). The Citizen, p. 3. Taylor, V., & Whittier, N. (1992). Collective identity in social movement communities: Lesbian feminist mobilization. In A.D. Morris & C. Mueller (Eds.), Frontiers in social movement theory (pp. 104-129). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Taylor, V., & Whittier, N. (1995). Analytical approaches to social movement culture: The culture of the women’s movement. In H. Johnston & B. Klandermans (Eds.), Social movements and culture (pp. 163-187). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Winant, H. (2000). Race and race theory. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 169-185. Notes 1 During the apartheid era, the nonracial sports movement was made up of sport organizations that rejected the use of racial classifications to structure memberships of and competitions among sports teams. See Booth (1998) for additional discussion of the nonracial sports movement. Athletes as Agents of Change 2 77 Netball is typically played on a hard-surface court, 100 feet by 50 feet, that is divided into thirds with goal posts at opposite ends. There are seven players on a team, and they are restricted to certain areas of the court depending on their position. The aim of the game is to score goals by throwing the ball through the hoop at the top of goal posts. Players may not run with the ball, kick it, hold it more than three seconds, or touch another player (International Federation of Netball Associations, 2001). 3 For additional details regarding this project, see Pelak, 2002. 4 The terms Black feminist and Third World feminist are highly contested and take on different meanings for scholars of diverse disciplines and geographic locations (Baca Zinn & Thornton Dill, 1996; Mama, 1995; Mohanty, Russo, & Torres, 1991). Although I recognize that some gender scholars, including those from Africa, reject the feminist label because of its connection to Western hegemony (Mohanty, 2004; Salo & Mama, 2001), I use the term to refer to the work of antiracist gender scholars who are committed to the eradication of multiple and intersecting systems of inequalities. 5 The top-10 teams were excluded because those teams were participating in the faceto-face interviewing. I felt it was inappropriate to ask the most competitive athletes to participate in both the interviews and the survey, given that their focus was on athletic competition. 6 According to the representative survey conducted at the tournament, 42.3% said the quota policy was positive, 46% said it was negative, and 11.7% said that the policy was neither positive nor negative. Respectively, 65 and 62% of Blacks/Africans and Indians said the policy was positive. Only 19% of White/Afrikaner respondents said the policy was positive.