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Rethinking Masculinity in the Neoliberal Order: Cameroonian Footballers, Fijian Rugby Players, and Senegalese Wrestlers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 2018

Niko Besnier
University of Amsterdam
Daniel Guinness
University of Amsterdam
Mark Hann
University of Amsterdam
Uroš Kovač
University of Amsterdam
E-mail address:


In the Global South since the 1980s, when economic downturns under pressure from the forces of neoliberalism eroded social relations, sport and athletes’ bodies have become major loci where masculinity is constituted and debated. Sport masculinity now fills a vacuum left by the evacuation of traditional forms of masculinity, which are no longer available to the new generations of men. For them, the possibility of employment in the sport industries in the Global North has had a transformative effect, despite the extremely limited probability of success. During the same period of time, the world of sport has become commoditized, mediatized, and corporatized, transformations that have been spearheaded by the growing importance of privatized media interests. Professional athletes have become neoliberal subjects responsible for their own destiny in an increasingly demanding and unpredictable labor market. In Cameroon, Fiji, and Senegal, athletic hopefuls prospectively embody this new gendered subjectivity by mobilizing locally available instruments that most closely resemble neoliberal subjectivity, such as Pentecostalism and maraboutism. Through the conduit of sport, the masculine self has been transformed into a neoliberal subject in locations where this is least expected. What emerges is a new approach to masculinity that eschews explanations based on the simple recognition of diverse and hierarchically organized masculinities, and instead recognizes masculinity in its different manifestations as embedded, scalar, relational, and temporally situated.

Armored Bodies
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