Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

MassillonProud: A Performance Studies Approach to High School Football and Localized Meaning-Making
by List, Jeffrey James, Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2015, 309; 3706915
Abstract (Summary)

Residents in Massillon, OH understand their relationship to the town through the lens of football. Football offers residents a narrative to which they can accede when the popularized narratives of the town fail to appropriately frame their experiences. The construction of Massillon as a blue-collar small town conflicts with historical narratives presented by other local institutions. Re-enacting the football narrative constructs a sense of self that rationalizes civic identities when confronted with counter-narratives. High school football, then, perpetuates the local, blue collar sense of self. By advancing the football narrative, they can claim that racial and class relations are less relevant in their lives because football enacts a classless and colorblind meritocracy. Because black and white players work where only talent matters, race and class are no longer determinants of success and opportunity. The spectacles and rituals of football also inform residents’ relationship to the team. They valorize the team and socialize newcomers and children into the embodied performances which create emotional attachments. Attachment has reached such proportions for some that they ascribe a biological or essential quality to football. The essential quality of the team also gets perpetuated though discourse and everyday practices. Residents conflate team and town where supporting the team means supporting the town. People enact civic identities as they recirculate the football narrative. Beginning with Paul Brown, an infrastructure supporting the team has grown into a celebratory complex of hundreds of projects and programs. Participation in the complex enhances the oneness of being part of the team. People access the greatness associated with the team by constructing a team identity. Individual, civic, and team identities coalesce during McKinley Week, where residents can combat others who represent what they strive to overcome. The repetition of images and performances ingrains the attraction to the team. Residents use football as a mechanism for meaning-making.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bial, Henry
Commitee: Chappell, Ben, Gronbeck-Tedesco, John, Hodges Persely, Nicole, Leon, Mechele
School: University of Kansas
Department: Theatre
School Location: United States -- Kansas
Source: DAI-A 76/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, Theater
Keywords: Cultural performance, Football, Ohio, Performance studies, Performativity, Social performance
Publication Number: 3706915
ISBN: 978-1-321-81161-2
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