19 SES 01, Doing Ethnography, Interactions and Reflexivity
Football is still considered as a male dominated field. Likewise, fan culture is regarded as a space for men (Pope & Williams 2011). While the public and scientific discourse around football and fan culture in Germany was mainly about hooligans, ultra-groups have moved into the center of attention in the past 15 years. Although girls and women are increasingly interested in the practice of youth cultures like those of ultras, ultra-culture still appears to be male dominated. Until today the scientific community regards female football fans and female ultras as ‘the others’. However, a thorough analysis of their practice(s) is still lacking.
This paper presents some results of my ethnographic study on a German ultra-group and how two young women of that group are doing gender. The aim of the study is to disclose gender constructions of these young women by describing female practice(s) in a male dominated space. This paper especially focuses on the ethnographic approach and the particularity of the field access.
This access is of interest on one hand because members of ultra-groups are extremely closed up and distrust their environment. and on the other hand because of their characteristic way of doing ultra by mobility. Ultras refuse to talk to journalists or academic and are sometimes reserved, so that it is difficult to gain access to this youth culture. Members of the group that I accompanied had strictly forbidden me to take field notes with pen and paper in order to prevent me from sticking out from them. They wanted me to be part of their group, doing ultra, just like them.
Another great challenge is the mobility which makes it difficult to organize a longer period of stay in one field. The groups travel to support their team in each stadium, so doing ultra happens not only by the pitch, also in public, for instance in the streets, the trains or in busses. Sometimes they have to run away from the police or have to choose another travelroute. This implies immense challenges for the researcher and her practice. Another point of this mobility is the duration of the travels, and then also the duration of the stay.
These challenges for the researcher and her body required a more suitable adaptation of the ethnographic methods. Some of these I would like to present in the lecture.
An important factor of the ethnographic approach is the intentional alienation (Hirschauer & Amann 1997) by determining the position of the researcher in the field. Under the aspect of proximity and distance several questions should be analyzed: Which position of the researcher’s body is helpful and which kind of knowledge may be gained depending on this position? How can a field be successfully accessed and the access maintained? And which role does gender play within the field?
Both, the strategy of alienation and a proof of being competent in doing ultra are essential assets for access and the persisting presence of the ethnographer. The “thick descriptions” (Geertz 1973) of gaining access and the entire stay in the field demonstrate the importance of the researcher’s practice. The body should act as a competent part of the field and simultaneously as a researcher. Doing ultra and doing research will have to be interconnected.
By a specific type of alienation the researcher will be enabled to both, being part of the situation and doing research at the same time. Participating in fields which are marked by specific types of mobility and cultural rules involve a steady switch between the worlds of research and youth culture, as well as moving in between the practices.
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