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Guest Lecture 招待講演

Looking at “Superior” Black Athletes during the Era of White Supremacy in Search of the Origin of a Myth

The image of the African American (hereafter “blacks”) as a genetically-advantaged athlete infiltrates in Japan even today. According to my preliminary survey, more than 90% of my respondents answered that blacks are better athletes than other racial/ethnic groups for biological or genetic reasons: they still cling to the old stereotype about the innateness of black athleticism.
Mainly for the penetration of this assumption that blacks are “natural” athletes, very little research has been done in Japan as to the origin of this “myth” and its formation, while in the United States, the following interpretations have been generally and widely accepted among the scholars of American sport history.
One is to place the formation of American sport institutions in the context of the modernization that took place through the second half of the nineteenth century in the imperial nation across the Atlantic, Great Britain, and consequently, to emphasize the American sporting world as dominated by WASP males, regarding the occasional successes of non-white and/or female athletes only as exceptional incidents in the mainstream of white men’s history. Another is to seek for the earliest process of myth formation during the 1930s, when Jesse Owens, the four-gold-medal winner at Berlin of 1936, and Joe Louis, the legendary heavy-weight boxing champion, claimed unprecedented attention as black athletes from the public and the media. Scholars have explored the representations and discourses in which the two champs and their achievements were read as the triumph of “natural” talents.
By contrast to a plethora of these interpretations, however, no sufficient effort has been made to trace back to the years before the 30s, and to examine the talent and performance of prominent black athletes in terms of their relations to the context of myth making/formation. Black football players, both collegiate and professional in this decade, claimed much scholarly attention, of course, but not often from a perspective in which their athleticism is viewed as a social construct.
In this presentation, I shall focus on the two outstanding footballers of the age, Fritz Pollard and Paul Robeson, both of whom reached their athletic maturity, and laid the foundation of distinguished positions in the 1920s. Key questions to be asked are as follows. First, how did they view and understand their own ability to exercise sports, particularly in terms of the nature-nurture axis? Second, how did people surrounding them, and the media interpret and explain their excellence? In short, did the two gridiron fighters live on the eve, in the dawn, or through the process of myth formation?
To investigate these issues, I am planning to draw heavily but not exclusively on the archives at Brown and Rutgers Universities, their alma maters, for primary sources. By fully exploring the documents about them, I shall analyze the interactions among their athletic achievements, the discourses and representations about them, and their racial/ethnic identities. Hence, this is an attempt to reinterpret and relocate the role and position of “race” in the development of sporting experiences by blacks, and the whole nation.
 

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lectures 講演
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Guest Lecture 招待講演
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research visits 調査
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Courses at Musashi 授業
Lecture at Musashi University 2011 Introduction to American Society 武蔵大学2011年度講義 英米の社会
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