The Construction and Confirmation of Identity in Sport Subcultures

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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  • 1 McMaster University
  • 2 University of Calgary
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It is usual in interactionist research to view the process of socialization into subcultures as, in part, a process of identity formation. However, we prefer to examine this process, at least in the case of sport subcultures, as a far more deliberate act of identity construction. That is, through a variety of means, the most significant of which is modeling, the neophyte member begins to deliberately adopt mannerisms, attitudes, and styles of dress, speech, and behavior that he or she perceives to be characteristic of established members of the subculture. Such perceptions among neophytes are usually far from being completely accurate and are frequently stereotypical. Thus, it is necessary to examine also the complementary process of identity confirmation in order to conduct a more complete examination of socialization into a subcultural career. These processes, and neophyte mistakes emerging in them, are examined with respect to ethnographies of climbers and rugby players conducted by the authors, together with supporting material from studies of other sports-related aspects of ethnographic research.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at a conference on “Qualitative Research: An Ethnographic/Interactionist Perspective,” held at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, May 1985.

Direct all correspondence to Peter Donnelly, School of Physical Education/Department of Sociology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4K1.
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