Sport. Race. Masculinity. Kinship.
I'm a socio-cultural anthropologist whose ethnographic research uses sport to theorize race, kinship, gender, and the body. I received my doctorate degree from the University of Virginia and I'm currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Notre Dame. I will join Notre Dame’s Department of Anthropology faculty as an Assistant Professor in fall 2021.
My fieldwork has been supported by various agencies, including the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Tracie Canada, Ph.D.
Ethnographer and Anthropologist
My first project, tentatively entitled Tackling the Everyday: Race, Family, and Nation in Big-Time College Football, considers the lived experiences of Black college football players. Based on 14 cumulative months of ethnographic fieldwork, this work moves off the gridiron into the daily lives of the young Black athletes that sustain this American sport. I demonstrate not simply how race, affiliation, and surveillance shape their individual experiences and career trajectories while participating in a multi-billion-dollar industry. I also show how Black players grapple with the risk of injury, both on and off the field, and the various forms of care that are present in their lives. To successfully navigate their everyday lives, Black college football players meaningfully reimagine certain kinship relationships. I show that in the face of a broader normative narrative that prioritizes the football team, they take strength from and build relationships with their Black football brothers and their own extended family kin, specifically their moms.
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.
Understanding the experiences of Black football players and their families brings attention not only to our paradoxical engagement with this particular population, but also more generally to what sport has to say about our distinctively American lives. Ideally, my work highlights what American football, and the lived experiences of its Black players, can tell us about racial, historical, and political dynamics in the contemporary United States.
“A Kelleyan Approach to Anthropology.” July 2019.
“'I Do It For Them': Teammate Bonds and Constructed Brotherhood.” November 2018.
“Power Players: US Football and French Rugby.” October 2018. https://www.sapiens.org/culture/paying-college-athletes-football-rugby/
“For the Love of Football.” August 2018.
“Passionate Doubleness: Genius and Struggle in the Life and Work of W.E.B. Du Bois.” August 2017.