“Making the Mainstream: The Domestication of American Soccer”
My project examines how soccer in the United States has come to occupy a paradoxical position as both a “mainstream” and a “foreign” sport. To explain this paradox, I examine the post-World War II development of youth soccer in the United States. From the 1960s, soccer has gone from a situation in which it was played only in immigrant communities to a situation today where it remains popular in immigrant communities at the same time that it has become popular among non-immigrants, especially in suburban communities.
To explain how soccer today can be both foreign and mainstream, I examine how the sport has become “domesticated,” or made “American” by stripping the residual ethnicity attached to the sport. I suggest that a “triple domestication” process has taken place whereby the sport been made “American” (domestication number one) by presenting it as a “safe” sport (domestication number two) and moving it into the domestic sphere of the family (domestication number three). Instantiations of soccer that are more domesticated (in the sense of being safe and existing within the family) are more likely to be perceived as mainstream while instantiations that are less domesticated are more likely to be perceived as foreign.
Four main questions guide my research: 1) How has soccer been domesticated, or “made American” in the post-World War II period?; 2) In what contexts does soccer today symbolize the foreign and in what contexts does it symbolize the American mainstream?; 3) What interactions occur between suburban soccer and soccer in immigrant communities, and how do these interactions shape how soccer is perceived in both communities?; and, 4) Most broadly, how does the mainstream change as it adopts foreign practices?
Through a combination of ethnographic and archival methods, I examine the rise of youth soccer in the United States in the post-World War II period. The domestication of American soccer, I suggest, has both been shaped by, and at the same time played a role in shaping, a newly developing mainstream.
To read a much more in-depth overview of my project, click here.