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Eleven Named People
"The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people" (Eric Hobsbawm)
This is Eleven Named People, a newsletter about “The History, Afterlives, and Futures of Global Black Football (Soccer).” Basically, it is the halfway house, repository, and greenhouse for an ambitious project I am developing that explore how professional football or soccer is a site of cultural struggle and economic exploration, especially its racial dimensions; how football can reveal racial and class dynamics at national and global levels of analysis, mainly from vantage points in the Global South, especially from and about Africa, South America and the Caribbean, and its linkages to Euro-America. At first, I will write this history and politics mostly from a South African focus and vantage point, but making connections and detours to elsewhere. It takes inspiration from the great Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm: "The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people." The project also draws inspiration from another sport, cricket, and another great Marxist intellectual, the Trinidadian historian C.L.R. James, who wrote extensively about the connections between the identity of the Caribbean not as individual islands but as the West Indies (in the 1960s an attempt at a political federation between the newly independent countries of the region was shortlived).In his book, Beyond a Boundary, James had written: “West Indians crowding to Tests bring with them the whole history and future hopes of the islands.”
Apart from the academic writing, I hope it will be a mix of an academic and public intellectual project; of deep, long-form, creative non-fiction writing, but simultaneously it will exploit the opportunities of social media. The project builds on my current research practice, Africa Is a Country (AIAC). That project enjoys a wide readership and has been credited with contributing to shaping online debates about and from Africa. The planned output - this may change - includes a website (Eleven Named People); a print magazine'; short videos for Youtube, Instagram, and TikTok (my collaborators on this will be my 12-year son Leo and, hopefully, my 16-year-old daughter Rosa); a book manuscript; as well as a series of academic and popular essays and public exhibitions; and short pieces to be published online. It will all be done under the name “Eleven Named People.” Some of my writing on sports have been published in Soccer & Society, Radical History Review, Al Jazeera English, Roads & Kingdoms, herri, The Nation, Jadaliyya, and Medium, among others, in addition to Twitter spaces and on Facebook and Youtube. This description is not final and will change, mutate, and be updated as my head gets clearer on all this. And, yes, I planned to launch this Substack with the African Cup of Nations one week away.