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Deviant Subjectivities: The Ultra Movement and the Governance of Public Affects


This dissertation examines the global proliferation of the ultra movement, a participatory style of sports fandom that entails collective continual singing, jumping, flag-waving, and the illegal lighting of marine flares on the streets and in stadiums. Having spread across six continents, ultra is seen by scholars (Gabler 2013) and many of its participants as a social movement that champions the continuation of traditional, spectator-based fandoms, which revolve around consistent attendance and crowd participation in contrast to TV viewership. The contrast between ultra and other mass political movements is that its social life is highly critical of the consumptive and individualistic aspects of neoliberal citizenship, but not necessarily married to the debates and issues of institutionalized politics. Based on over two years of cumulative field research in Ireland and Germany with the ultra groups of three clubs (Shamrock Rovers FC, FC Union Berlin, and Eis Hockey Club Dynamo Berlin), I find ultras’ performative style of support in the stadium to be a form of social commentary and protest that is based in part on their friction with the state, the mainstream media, and the commercial priorities of sports’ governing bodies. A look into the ultra movement provides a space in which to examine how broader structures of power attempt to suppress groups that deviate from dominant idealizations of the liberal democratic subject.

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