Monday, 10 August 2015

Redhead parks a theoretical bus in front of goal

A review of Steve Redhead’s (2015) Football and Accelerated Culture: This Modern Sporting Life Routledge

I’ve tweeted some potted reviews of early chapters of this book and even linked to the video in which the author is interviewed by his wife. Many of these have been retweeted by them.

My first tweet was not RT’d and my last not so far. The first tweet read
engaging chapter 1 really preface/intro with enough music mentions to float @TimNewburn boat but poor index!
More popular were:
Ch2 Football and Accelerated Culture roars down left wing exchanging 1-2s with Baudrillard, Badiou and Virilio. Will score? 
in Ch 3 of Football and Accelerated Culture @steveredhead bigs up his firm (university archive) and 'hits and tells' about #criminology 
also picks out the ‘camp’ in hyper-masculinity #footballaccelaratedculture I’ll claim that for #queercriminology
ch 5 mixes hooligan memoirs with some academic ones of his own - his greatest hits 
mentions @DonalMacIntyre journalism not his professorship 
So far my final tweet has gone unanswered.
What do pages 58 and 74 have in common?
The answer is a very lengthy and identical quote (third of a page) from ‘Pete Walsh, publisher of Milo books’. Readers of subtext might see some criticism in the other tweets too but no subtlety is intended in my complaint about the index. I’ve complained in the past about the index in other titles in Routledge’s Research Sport, Culture and Society series. Rosie Meek’s Sport in Prison is compromised by a poor one but I’ll return to this from time-to-time as the are other complaints and some praise to attend to.

It is appropriate that some of my first thoughts were dashed off quickly on social media and the index has mentions of Twitter on pages, 1, 9, 12-15, 19, 76 and 80 only missing the discussion on page 40 of the campaign demanding justice for the 96 (Hillsborough #jft96). The accelerated culture of Twitter means I can, with sufficient wit, give the impression of deep reading but the slower pace of writing this blog with quill pen by candle light demands more.

I think the book better illustrates the acceleration of culture than football does. I’ve been supporting football less assiduously than Steve and only slightly longer but for all the changes many things have not changed. The length of match and the means of deciding the game have not changed. What has changed is the amount of space (I’m not sufficiently aware of Virilio’s work - and Redhead’s 34 mentions largely assume you are - to know if his dromology covers time and space) given to sport, specifically football. Once only the cup final enjoyed as much pre and post match speculation and analysis but even the most mundane, end-of-season, mid-table match is declared the wonder of our age.

Twitter is quick and this book has been written quickly. I used some football metaphors in my tweets but cricket fits the purpose better here. Cricket has become quicker with a variety of short forms that some blame for the speed of even its full test version. Redhead is found at the crease knocking the bowling of those less versed in high theory to boundary in a series of aperçus, reminiscences and boasts (which might have been demoted to footnotes) about his knowledge, connections and archive.

Tackling that high theory we find that he is attracted to Virilio’s work (but rejecting his idealist phenomenology) and to Baudrillard’s late (in his life and posthumously published) work (31 mentions) and dislikes attempts to position such work as either modern or post modern, preferring the term late modern. Zizek appreciatively mentioned nearly a dozen times.

He knows his criminology and criminologists (nearly 30 mentions but no index entry!) but you will need to them too as he rarely goes beyond a sketch or name check, save for a big shout out to Steve Hall and Simon Winlow’s Teesside Centre for Realist Criminology (TCRC) though not all of TCRC’s mentions are indexed and none of Hall and Winlow’s half dozen citations are indexed. Sociology has no index entry despite nearly 20 mentions.

He deploys terms like Claustropolis, Claustopolitanism and Claustropolitan Sociology extensively and these gets many index mentions and much of this is foreshadowed in his earlier work when at Brighton. From Virilio ‘Claustopolitanism’ is the move from the cosmopolis that classical sociology has studied to the gated (figuratively and metaphorically) ‘communities’ of today that require his Claustropolitan Sociology, ‘or ‘bunker anthropology’.

In addition to the problems with the index and the elliptical nature of some references to high theory and score settling the writing is often unnecessarily dense. Sometimes this in the obscurantist manner of some cultural studies but also, and contrawise (and here I’m aping the style) legalistically with, asides, and conditional legalistic, deemed necessary - but please in another sentence - clauses.

Additionally, and here we are moving on from the speed of the writing, we have the speed of the production. It has clearly not been properly edited or sub-edited and for this I blame his publishers. Thus, in addition to the repeat of the quotes on pages 57 and 74 we find that the term ‘Pete Walsh, publisher of Milo books’ appears six times. The expression ‘What I have called, with a considerable irony’ appears on pages 23, 51 and 67 and again as ‘heavy irony’ on pages 70 and 78. Throughout I found myself thinking I’d already read something in this book or his earlier work which he promotes at length throughout.

But it is not all bad. I’ll quote his work on the ‘camp’ ness of the hyper-masculinity of some of his hooligans (p23) and the queer tone of Morrissey’s love of Georgie Best (p92). I’ll quote too his opinion that sporting mega events will not regenerate Cities but ‘resettle’ them (p80).

I am grateful to learn of ‘physical cultural studies’.
And the football? Quite. There are sometimes long quotes (whole pages!) from the 108 hooligan memoirs covering the years 1987-2014 held at Charles Sturt University which are part of his ‘hit and tell’ project (nearly 20 mentions in book but none in index). Many of the mentions are otiose and repetitive. The contents of the archive are set out in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 matches clubs and their ‘firms’ with the memoirs. A further appendix should have removed the unwieldy list of the ‘firms’ associated with various clubs that take up pages 29-31.

Most chapters start with a claim to link theory to the hooligan memoirs but most involve lengthy theoretical approach work and then some mention of those memoirs, diddling about the box, before shooting wide!

And finally back to the Index. As noted it is short and misses many of the most important topics, subjects and authors but it also includes some random elements. Reference to the Large Hadron Collider does appear on page 17 but only in most aleatory fashion. This book is as much about popular music as it is about football - and I agree with him about the need to treat sport as part of the cultural industries - though it is more about picking fights with fellow theorists, so it is worrying that Happy Mondays lose their second capital in the index though not throughout the text, as do Joy Division yet The Farm and The Hollies get their full appellation and Morrissey acquires his birth initial, ’S’ (and full name in text, p92).

I've torn this book apart. It should be disassembled and put together in a new order with greater eye to detail.  It might then meet Steve Hall's encomium for it:

Redhead’s state-of-the-art exploration of contemporary football culture is bursting with fresh ideas, which he applies with both imagination and precision to his object of study. This trenchant mixture of raw realism and high theory is exactly what is needed to break the study of football culture out of its current ailing paradigms and reset the coordinates for a new trajectory. A genuine pathfinder.

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