Monday, 9 October 2006

seeing as it's not like I'm already working on two different projects...

... I thought I'd embark on a third. The first two (big project: civil mobilization in support of soldiers' morale in Italy in WWI, little project: the mourning and commemoration of war dead in Rome, 1915-1930) are both strictly work related. The new one is... well if Iìm going to to it properly it'll still be loads of work, but it feels like fun as well. Ok, the other projects also feel like fun, cos it's what I enjoy doing. But this is ... oh feck it you know what I mean.

I want to write a moderately serious, political/ sociological study of AS Roma Ultras. I'd like to look at a brief history of the ultras movement, and of Roma ultras specifically as rooted in the history of post-war Italian and Roman political/economic/social changes. Also: a quick history of the club, on and off the pitch; the derby; ultras and politics; the current make-up of the Curva Sud; an anthropological look at ultras.

I'd like to do some stuff on the self-generated mythology which surrounds the main groups, like the CUCS, Fedayn, Boys etc., and on the all-pervasive nostalgia which seems to be a crucial part of ultradom. Since Roma fans perceive themselves as 'i tifosi più tifosi del mondo' and are to the best of my knowledge the only fans anywhere to actually sustain a daily newspaper wholly devoted to their team (no, AS and Marca don't count) I want to look at what this actually entails.

I'd like to consider the social and geographical background of Roma ultras, the way many ultra groups were born out of neighbourhood supporters' clubs in the working class districts of (especially) southern Rome, like Quadraro, Garbatella, Centocelle and especially of course Testaccio. And how does this super-campanilismo, this proud attachment not just to the city but to a small district, fit with the simultaneous trumpeting of Roma: Caput Mundi? the frequent assertions that Rome is the centre of Western Civilization as we know it.

I want to look at the political orientations of Roma ultras groups, the way these have changed over time, the extent to which these reflect or express wider political movements in Italian society, and what the implications of the (growing?) fascist section of Curva Sud might be. There are problems with racism, antisemitism and homophobia in Italian football generally, and there is a small yet active group of neofascist parties: how do these fit together? and how does the traditionally far right allegiance of the Lazio ultras fit into the picture?

Then there's interesting stuff to say about age groups, rites of passage, generational relationships and deference. And about tribalism and the ways in which it is signalled: clothing, colours, flags etc, and individual groups' songs, as opposed to songs sung by the whole curva.

Overall, it will be a study of identity, its formation and self-conscious construction. In this sense, it's not a million miles away from the main theme of my doctorate (identity formation amongst 18-30something Italian males, just in WWI rather than the Curva Sud.) I envisage it as not a full-on academic study, since I'm not qualified to write an anthropological or sociological work, but rather an intelligent high-end popular work, if that makes sense. Not densely footnoted but certainly properly referenced; not impersonal by any means, since a lot of it will entail recounting my own experiences, but less of a personal memoir than many of these things are. A more academic Season with Verona. Does that make sense?

I'm kind of nervous about this cos I've never done anything like this before, and it feels a bit like charging arrogantly into a field I'm wholly unqualified to talk about. What do people think? Good idea? Rubbish idea? Boring? already done? needs proper ethnographers? needs to be done by someone a bit more laddish? needs me to date more fascists? Those of you who read my match reports and suchlike have an idea of my general style. Your comments will be gratefully received. I may even pay attention to them, who knows.


codazzo said...

hey I'm all for it! this looks promising.
of course you should reserve a special chapter for the seven nation army disaster :D

me piasce! fàmolo!

De Vertalerin said...

Ah, we chatted about this, didn't we? I think you should really go for it, and also maybe start touting around possible publishers as early as possible. Also talk to your mate the Italian football historian. And finally (I'm really not bangin a drum here) read something about ethnography and the need for reflexivity etc. This is much more of an issue for a topoic like this than it is for historians, I'm sure.

You'll need some interviewees, and you'll need to find them. Snowballing (word of mouth) can work well, but you run the risk of only interviewing people from a single standpoint (pretty much your own, since your friends tend naturally to broadly share your political views.

I can lend you some stuff on ethography whrn you come over. My exam is tomorrow and I shall be perfectly happy to get them out of the house for a bit.

De Vertalerin said...

PS - you don't need to be a 'proper ethnographer'. Ethnography's just a technique used in a huge range of disciplines.

Off to take an exam in an hour which will certainly expose me as 'not a proper ethnographer' :-)

a.c.t said...

I think it's a great idea. As far as I know there hasn't been much written about the ultras phenomenon. A great book which touches on it is Tim Park's A Season with Verona which you may have probably read, but I'd love to know more, especially the violence aspect. I'm also always fascinated by the singing at Italian games. A few British people I know think the guy who stands opposite the crowd at Italian games and starts off the chants with a megaphone is unspontaneous and false. I don't agree - it sends a shiver down my spine. Would love to know more behind the history of football songs. Go for it. Put my name down for a copy.

martinobhoy said...

Sounds like a great idea. I'd certainly be interested in reading the political stuff. I'd always assumed (showing my ignorance here) that as Lazio ultras are traditionally far right that a Roma ultra would want to be at the other end of the political spectrum. Are the politics more important than the team?

I'd also be interested in how you deal with any areas you find unpleasant with the Roma ultras. I've read A Season With Verona and although I enjoyed it I thought Tim Parks slightly glossed over the racism of the fans. At the very end of the book he makes a point about a black Colombian player being warmly welcomed on his debut by the Curva Sud as if it was a big deal and we should applaud the fans for doing something that any right minded fan would do as a matter of course anyway.

MarvMarsh said...

It sounds really interesting. I think there's even a chance you could get a few references to Paolo di Canio in, which I know we would all love. It could be like Bill Buford's Among the Thugs, except this time it would be Among the Fascists. You might have to get a di Canio tattoo but I'm sure you'd be fine with that.

Anonymous said...

I'm a get yr post from queens tonight and email you

yrs tired and exhausted and sad