Sport. Race. Kinship. Masculinity.
I'm a socio-cultural anthropologist whose ethnographic research uses sport to theorize race, kinship and care, gender, and the performing body. My work focuses on the lived experiences of Black football players.
My research has been supported by various agencies, including the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.
My first book project, Tackling the Everyday: Race, Family, and Nation in Big-Time College Football, has been accepted as part of University of California Press’s Atelier: Ethnographic Inquiry in the Twenty-First Century series. It is an ethnographic study of Black college football players that specifically focuses on the interconnectedness of race, kinship, care, and violence. This book tells how institutional systems and spaces of everyday life order, discipline, and enact violence against Black players. It also details with granular precision how these athletes navigate their football programs, as well as their university. Through an analysis of college athletes, Blackness, and two types of care, Tackling the Everyday argues that Black college football players successfully move through their everyday lives by reimagining certain kinship relationships and relying on various forms of care. I show that in the face of a normative narrative that prioritizes the football team, they rely on their Black football brothers and their biological mothers.
My next ethnographic project will consider American football through the intersection of medical anthropology, care, and disability studies. There is a growing trend of white flight from football, with white parents in upper-income communities pulling their sons from the sport over the increasing threat of long-term injuries like concussions. Therefore, I'm interested in the families of young football players who live through injury, opt out of sport, or are concerned for their children’s sporting well-being but still allow them to play. To complement the quantitative work being done on the implications of sport injury, this project will contribute a human and social dimension to the now common discourse on the debilitating consequences of traumatic brain injury.
My third project, "Integrating Tobacco Road Football, 1965-1975," takes seriously the lived experiences of the Black players who integrated the sport at four historically white North Carolina universities. By relying on qualitative methods – primarily archival and oral history research – I will explore the material and social contexts within which pioneering Black athletes were living and argue that social inequalities manifest in embodied athletic practice. Once completed, this research will contribute to the archival and ethnographic record the lived realities of Black football players who are often rendered invisible. Further, this historical project will contextualize the current moment of college football, which is riddled with systemic racism, labor and power exploitation, structural violence, and hegemonic masculinity.
News and Comments
"Plantation Politics at the NFL Combine." Anthropology News, September 2022.
"The Spectacle of Black Family Trauma through the NFL Draft." First and Pen, May 2022.
"'Colin in Black and White' Manifests the Power and Politics of Hair for Black Athletes." First and Pen, November 2021.
"Anti-Blackness and College Football." Black Perspectives, July 2021.
Republished: "Brotherhood and Anti-Blackness in College Football." SAPIENS, August 2021.
"The NFL's Racist 'Race Norming' Is an Afterlife of Slavery." Scientific American, July 2021.
"Special Focus: Engaging 'The Second Generation of African American Pioneers in Anthropology'." History of Anthropology Review, April 2021.
"Tackling Care and Capitalism in College Football." SAPIENS, December 2020.
"A Kelleyan Approach to Anthropology." Society for Cultural Anthropology, July 2019.
"For the Love of Football." Anthropology News, August 2018.
"Passionate Doubleness: Genius and Struggle in the Life and Work of W.E.B. Du Bois." Berose, August 2017.
"Towards a Public Sociology of Sport." End of Sport Podcast, May 2022.
"Slavery's Long Afterlife: Race Norming and the NFL with Dr. Tracie Canada." The Parley in All Blue Podcast, December 2021.
"The NFL's Racist Race-Norming and Brotherhood and Anti-Blackness in College Football with Dr. Tracie Canada." Sports as a Weapon Podcast, October 2021.
"'Family,' Race, and College Football with Tracie Canada." End of Sport Podcast, September 2021.
"Power Players: US Football and French Rugby." SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human, October 2018.
"Canada Navigates the Worlds of College Athletes" - John West and Elizabeth Thompson for Trinity Communications (September 19, 2022)
"Super Bowl puts all of the NFL’s diversity shortfalls on Front Street" - Ray Marcano for The Grio (February 11, 2022)
"College Football and Anti-Blackness" - Charles Hallman for Minnesota Spokesman Reporter (September 8, 2021)
I've been asked to present on and discuss a range of issues, including mentoring underrepresented students, ethnographic fieldwork practices, histories of Black anthropology, and connections between race, sport, and kinship. Here is a sampling of those events: