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BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, BOUGHT THE T-SHIRT: BEŞIKTAŞ FANS AND THE COMMODIFICATION OF FOOTBALL IN TURKEY

Abstract
Abstract

In this article, I explore how the rapid commercialism and commodification of Turkish premier league football has affected the activities of a particular fan group, Çarşı, for the club Beşiktaş, one of Turkey's oldest teams. I look at how elements of the commodification of football have been harnessed and mediated by Çarşı to make ethical and political statements and convey an anarcho-socialist message. These processes, I argue, are driven by the possibilities opened up by rapid social and technological development. The shift to searching for identity among the forums and video websites of the internet, rather than on the terraces of Beşiktaş, is profoundly altering how fans construct their allegiance to the fan group and the club. This process, it will be shown, is not so much liberating supporters from the requirements of fandom as it is generating new conventions and processes to which Çarşı members must adhere.

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John McManus is a PhD student in Social and Cultural Anthropology at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K.; e-mail: johnmcman@gmail.com
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NOTES

1 The other two are Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe. All three are based in Istanbul.

2 In the five-year period from 2006 to 2011, Beşiktaş season tickets in the cheapest area of the ground increased in price from 135 lira ($75) to 900 lira ($500). See http://www.gazeteport.com.tr/yazar/23/acil-sezen/1315/besiktas-kombine-satamadi-cunku (accessed 17 August 2012).

3 Özyürek Esra, Nostalgia for the Modern: State Secularism and Everyday Politics in Turkey (London: Duke University Press, 2006), 5. See also Kandiyoti Deniz and Saktanber Ayşe, eds., Fragments of Culture: The Everyday of Modern Turkey (London: I. B. Taurus, 2002).

4 Özyürek, Nostalgia for the Modern, 94; Saunders Doug, Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History Is Reshaping Our World (London: Random House, 2010), 189; Öktem Kerem, Angry Nation: Turkey since 1989 (London: Zed Books, 2011), 112–14.

5 Yael Navaro-Yashin, “The Market for Identities: Secularism, Islamism, Commodities,” in Kandiyoti and Saktanber, Fragments of Culture, 222; Deloitte Sports Business Group, Football Money League 2010, 2011, and 2012.

6 See Gottdiener Mark, “Approaches to Consumption: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives,” in New Forms of Consumption: Consumers, Culture and Commodification, ed. Gottdiener Mark (Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000), 331; van Binsbergen Wim M. J. and Geschiere Peter L., eds., Commodification: Things, Agency, and Identities (The Social Life of Things Revisited) (Munster: Lit Verlag, 2005); and Clarke David B., Doel Marcus A, and Housianux M. L., eds., The Consumption Reader (London: Routledge, 2003), 136.

7 Slater D. and Tonkiss F., Market Society: Markets and Modern Social Theory (Cambridge: Polity, 2001), 24, quoted in Moor Liz, The Rise of Brands (Oxford: Berg, 2007), 67.

8 See Walsh Adrian and Giulianotti Richard, Ethics, Money and Sport: This Sporting Mammon (London: Routledge, 2007), 4, 14.

9 Appadurai Arjun, ed., “Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value,” in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 13. Appadurai actually uses the term commoditisation but, in keeping with van Binsbergen and Geschiere, I use the term commodification, because “ification relates to ‘making’ while -isation seems to imply a more or less automatic and unilineal process.” Van Binsbergen and Geschiere, The Social Life of Things Revisited, 15.

10 See Özyürek, Nostalgia for the Modern; and Ayşe Öncü, “Global Consumerism, Sexuality as Public Spectacle, and the Cultural Remapping of Istanbul in the 1990s,” in Kandiyoti and Saktanber, Fragments of Culture.

11 In the most simplistic terms, consumption is the flip side of commodification, namely, the purchase and use of the commodified good(s). The patterns and trends present within the Çarşı group illustrate and engage with patterns of both commodification and consumption. The two terms will thus be used in tandem here.

12 It is impossible to quantify the number exactly. There seems to be astonishingly little acceptance in Turkey for anyone (male or female) who does not like football or does not want to affiliate themselves—even if just by name or color—with a team. The debate is normally clothed in humor, but the fact remains that it is extraordinarily hard to “opt out” from the sporting associations and rivalries swirling through everyday Turkish culture. Based on a population of 72 million, and accepting that Beşiktaş are less widely supported than Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe, it is safe to assume the number of individuals at least nominally associated with the club will be in the millions.

13 Giulianotti Richard, “Supporters, Followers, Fans and Flaneurs: A Taxonomy of Spectator Identities in Football,” Journal of Sport and Social Issues 26 (2002): 2546.

14 See Saunders, Arrival Cities, 161–96.

15 Ciher Selçuk, perf., Asi Ruh (Rebel Soul), DVD. Directed by Kana Ersin (Istanbul: Pancard, 2009).

16 This is not to discount the existence of a distinction between the two terms. There are Beşiktaş fans who sit elsewhere in the stadium, do not want to be associated with Çarşı or the political messages they espouse, and will even on occasion boo or remain silent in order to express this opposition. Nevertheless, Çarşı is seen by most fans to “represent” all fans, to the extent that the two terms continually slipped and shifted in the mouths of most fans I talked to. As one fan says: “You shouldn't differentiate too much . . . when it comes to supporting the team, all of the Beşiktaş fans have handed the initiative to Çarşı.” Adnan Bostancıoğlu, perf., Asi Ruh.

17 Findings are the result of participant observation at matches and during other gatherings of football fans. In addition, semistructured interviews were conducted away from games. Subjects for interview were selected by snowball sampling and filtered to provide as broad a spectrum of opinion as possible.

18 Öktem, Angry Nation, 58–66, 73–75.

19 For more information on how Istanbul districts were divided during the political violence of the 1970s, see Zürcher Erik J., Turkey: A Modern History (London: I. B. Tauris, 2004), 264; and Keyder Cağlar, State and Class in Turkey: A Study in Capitalist Development (London: Verso, 1987), 217.

20 Kana, Asi Ruh.

21 It is interesting that this stance also serves as a trope adopted by some of those too young to have experienced Turkish football in the 1980s.

22 Alen Markaryan, interview by the author, Istanbul, 1 September 2009.

23 The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten printed twelve cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, leading to protests across the Muslim world. See BBC News, “Muslim Cartoon Fury Claims Lives,” 6 February 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/4684652.stm (accessed 26 April 2012).

24 Erman, interview, Istanbul, 15 July 2009; Fatih Ersin and Mehmet, interview, Istanbul, 17 July 2009.

25 Bağış Erten, interview, Istanbul, 15 July 2009.

26 Of course, such attention has also distorted the coverage of Çarşı in the media. It has led to the detachment of the group from the context of its actions and the genesis of its support. People forget that Çarşı is first and foremost a supporters’ group for Beşiktaş and that political statements come a distinct second to getting behind the team and cheering it to victory.

27 Moor, Rise of Brands, 3.

28 Ibid., 66.

29 Ibid., 73.

30 See Grup Yorum, http://www.grupyorum.net (accessed 26 September 2010). A recent outdoor concert for the group drew 55,000 people and took place at Inönü Stadium, the ground of Beşiktaş.

31 Moor, Rise of Brands, 73.

32 Ibid., 89.

33 Markaryan, interview.

34 Clarke et al., eds., introduction to “Part 5: Theory,” in Consumption Reader, 225. See also Gottdiener, New Forms of Consumption, 3–31.

35 Gottdiener, New Forms of Consumption, 19, 25; and Hebdige Dick, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London: Routledge, 1988), 95.

36 Mary Douglas, “The Consumer's Revolt,” in Clarke et al., Consumption Reader, 136; Gottdiener, New Forms of Consumption, 25.

37 Hastings Robert, “Juve is Magic: The Anglicisms of Italian Football Graffiti,” Italian Studies 39 (1984): 102.

38 Alexander Lexi and Brimson Dougie, Green Street Hooligans, DVD. Directed by Lexi Alexander (Hollywood, Calif.: Universal Pictures, 2005).

39 Interviews with the author, July and August 2009.

40 Clarke et al., introduction to “Part 5: Theory,” in Consumption Reader, 221.

41 Hebdige, Subculture, 74–89.

42 Heath Joseph and Potter Andrew, The Rebel Sell: How the Counterculture Became Consumer Culture (Sussex, U.K.: Capstone, 2005), 175.

43 Hebdige, Subculture, 101–102.

44 Özyürek, Nostalgia for the Modern, 22, 97.

45 Hebdige, Subculture, 96.

46 BESIKTASwirdverarsch, “Carsi Hooligans in Mekka,” YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCeojLTEmTw (accessed 20 March 2010).

47 Mason Matt, The Pirate's Dilemma: How Hackers, Punk Capitalists, Graffiti Millionaires and Other Youth Movements are Remixing our Culture and Changing our World (London: Allen Lane, 2008), 122.

48 Ibid., 121.

49 Hebdige, Subculture, 96.

50 For the internationalization of the Fener'e Opera (Opera for Fenerbahçe), see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqDwVh-op34 (accessed 26 April 2012).

51 See White Jenny, Islamist Mobilization in Turkey: A Study in Vernacular Politics (Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 2002); Özyürek, Nostalgia for the Modern; Navaro-Yashin Yael, Faces of the State: Secularism and Public Life in Turkey (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002); and Kandiyoti and Saktanber, Fragments of Culture.

52 See Sonia Phalnikar, “Germany's Gay Soccer Players Stuck Firmly in the Closet,” Deutsche Welle, 17 January 2007, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,2312541,00.html (accessed 26 April 2012); and Ian Hawkey, “Political Football,” The Times, 3 April 2005, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/article376707.ece (accessed 17 April 2010).

53 See, for instance, the Red Knights Campaign at Manchester United. Gwyn Topham, “The United Goal is Green and Gold,” The Guardian, 2 March 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/02/manchester-united-red-knights-glazers and the Manchester United Supporter's Trust, http://action.joinmust.org/index.php/blog (accessed 17 April 2010).

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
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  • EISSN: 1471-6380
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