Representative athletes: national identity in Olympic swimmers

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Matthew R. Hodler (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Julie Brown

Abstract: The Modern Olympic Games have occurred every four years (with some breaks because of World Wars) since 1896. These Games are a global event, with athletes from over 200 nations competing in over 25 sports. As a result, the Olympics are a fertile ground for nationalism. Many scholars have approached the Olympic Games at the macro-level. This exploratory study begins to create a link between this macro-level approach of nationalism and sport with a micro-level investigation of Olympic Swimmers and their national identity: how they experience national identity and when it is salient in the context of their Olympic experience. I used the theoretical concept of Benedict Anderson's notion of the nation as an Imagined Community paired with Stuart Hall's concepts of identity to explain how national identity is experienced. I collected data using two instruments. The first was a modified version of Kuhn and MacPartland's (1954) and Bochner's (1994) "Twenty Statement Test," allowing the swimmers to describe who they are in their own words. The primary research instrument was in-depth, semi-structured interviews of Olympic Swimmers. I found that, for these athletes, national identity was "wearable," was separated "politically" and "athletically," and was a collective identity experienced differently by these athletes as they represented their nation. National identity is very context-dependent for the Olympic swimmers: the athletes' national identity was salient while competing in the Olympics, but not their primary identity. Their primary identity was athlete. This exploratory study opens up a new approach to linking the macro-level and micro-level approaches to identity, national identity, and nationalism in sport.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2009
National Identity, Olympics, Sport and Nationalism
Nationalism and sports.
Olympics $x Social aspects.
Identity (Psychology)

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