Indigenous masculinity in sport: The power and pitfalls of rugby league for Australia’s Pacific Island diaspora
Men of Pacific Island descent are significantly over-represented in the national rugby league (NRL) of Australia, making up close to half of all professional contracts while accounting for approximately two per cent of the nation’s population. Despite their prominence in this commercially successful sport in a popularly proclaimed ‘sport mad’ nation, they continue to be socio-economically marginalised, have high rates of depression, suicide and incarceration, and are often under financial and social pressures. Using a critical anthropological approach and drawing from ethnographically focused works from the cross-disciplinary areas of Pacific studies, sports studies, and indigenous masculinity studies, as well as observations and analysis from my own fieldwork, which utilises Pasifika methodologies like talanoa, I explore the unique paradox of sport as both equalising and dividing, oppressive and emancipatory for ethnic minorities. Sport can reinforce social values as well as challenge them; it can be a rare space for positive visibility and upward mobility for indigenous and first nations men, and a space of exploitation, degradation and racism; it can even save lives and destroy them. Focusing on urban Pasifika men living in Sydney, I argue that rugby league offers unique opportunities for both transgression and affirmation of colonially introduced values within the Australian landscape.
Supervisors: Dr Peter Phipps and Associate Prof Barry Judd.
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Pacific studies, masculinities, indigeneity and race, decolonisation practices, postcolonialism, diasporas, gender, indigenous methodologies, sports and leisure.