Sporting lives and "development" agendas : a critical analysis of sport and "development" nexus in the context of farm workers of the Western Cape
This thesis is about the sporting lives of people who work and/or live at the commercial grape and wine farms of the Western Cape. Collectively referred to as farm workers, they are identified by the Western Cape Provincial Government as a priority group in need of "development". Over the past 15 or so years, proclamations and practices of "sport for development and peace" (SDP) have emerged as globally recognised phenomena, where sport is promoted as a tool to achieve a broad range of "development" objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals. As a research topic, SDP scholars examine the practical and theoretical usefulness of sport as a tool for addressing a diverse set of social, health, political and economic issues through education, diplomacy, inclusion, and awareness programmes. Instead of attending to the questions of whether or how sport might serve "development" ends, this study offers a critical analysis of the nexus between sport and "development" (SDN) in the context of farm workers of the Western Cape. Informed by James Ferguson‘s analysis of "development" as an 'anti-politics machine' (1990), I adopt a deconstructionist approach that examines issues beyond the narrow confines of "development" problems and programmes. As he argues, "development" continues to serve as a-central organising concept‘ to discuss and assess desired change in social and economic realms, which is evident in the programmes of farm worker "development" and how these continue to retain a place in the policy and political discourses on agrarian transformation in post-apartheid South Africa. With an appreciation of the Western Cape‘s agrarian history and politics and how they shape present-day farm labour conditions, I have critically analysed the discourses and practices of farm worker "development" and SDP in the light of broader structural realities, everyday sporting lives and the "development" experiences of farm workers. The central organising question of this thesis is: how do "development" problems and the solutions sought for in SDP discourses and programmes correspond to the social, economic and political realities of their subjects? Drawing on my ethnographic fieldwork conducted at farmlands in and around Rawsonville, a small rural town, from April 2012 to May 2013, I illustrate different and seemingly disconnected frames and positions from which theories of SDP and farm workers‘ experiences of sport and "development" were observed. The analysis is organised around three contrasting frames of observation, namely: 1) historical and contemporary discourses and politics of farm worker "development" and SDP programmes and practices, 2) structural arrangements of competitive and physical infrastructure for official sport, and 3) everyday (official and unofficial) sporting practices and experiences of the rural working class people. With a particular attention to continuities and contradictions in historical and contemporary farm worker "development" discourses and selected SDP case studies, I demonstrate that while SDP agendas directed at farm workers may serve divergent and at times conflicting interests, farm workers' own agency, initiative and aspirations do not feature in SDP programmes and broader "development" discourses. The contrasts and counter-narratives presented in discussing these case studies and stories complicate and contest simplified notions commonly projected in global SDP discourses and locally specific "development" agendas. Beyond the confines of sporadic and temporary SDP projects, there was a vibrant and active world of formal and informal sport among the farm workers of Rawsonville. By focusing on the everyday sporting lives of athletes, coaches, managers, organisers and soccer clubs, I paint a picture that reveals the diversity and inconsistency of experiences and meanings of farm worker as an identity, a class position and an occupation. Interrogating how farm workers were embedded within the broader rural sport structures, I describe the complex set of factors that shaped their experiences of, access to, and participation in, sport. I argue that while sport was passionately pursued irrespective of direct or corollary "development" benefits, it was unofficial and under-the-radar sport networks and practices that served as vital spaces of autonomy, initiative and self-realization, even for those who may not otherwise have had such opportunities. And while the politically disengaged and enthusiastically embraced qualities of sport may continue to be among the reasons for its traction in "development" and peace agendas, these very same qualities allow sport to be usefully employed as an ethnographic method. Among the formative turns I took in conducting and presenting my research observations was to implicate myself and invite the reader into the confusing and complex process of learning and knowledge production. By way of conclusion, I argue for refocusing the gaze of research on studying sport as part of the broader scope of subaltern sociality.