Mobilities and the Role of the Researcher

At first I will discuss my limited mobility in the Fenerbah^e Pub. For a couple of months I did not have access to any seats in the smoking area. I considered the smoking area to be an important part of the pub because most of the fans were sitting there. It was the place where I predominantly wanted to conduct my participant observation. At the beginning I could not really understand why I was restricted from going there, nor could I guess whether it was going to change after a while. Thus, the time I spent in the non-smoking area was not entirely voluntary because I would rather have wanted to sit next to the fans in the smoking area. How challenging the access to the smoking area was is illustrated in the following section of my fieldnotes from 8 November 2012, my first visit to the Fenerbah^e Pub.

It is a rather small and longish pub including a smoking area and a nonsmoking area. They are separated by a glass door. We, a colleague and I, would like to sit in the smoking area, but we cannot enter because, as the bartender [Alper] tells us, all seats are reserved. He adds that this area is only for people that want to watch the match. We emphasise that we also want to watch the match, but we are rejected with the argument that all seats are already taken. After a while a table in the non-smoking area opens and we sit down. There, we have a good view of one of the two small TVs on the wall in the non-smoking area. It is not long until kick-off. Maybe 15 minutes. In the big smoking area the TV on the wall is taken down by one of the bartenders, who, as we will learn later, is the owner [Emre] of the pub. Based on what I can observe through the glass door, instead of the TV a linen screen is rolled down and a projector is switched on.[1]

After the match I started talking with the bartender, Alper, about my research. He seemed to be very interested, asked how long my research would last and gave me his address and telephone number. Later we talked again and he reserved two seats for the next matches for me and my colleague and also introduced me to the owner. The next time I went to the pub, I directly approached the bartender, Alper, who was the main bartender at the time of my fieldwork. When I asked him about my reservations he sent me to a table in the non-smoking area. I objected and said that I had reserved for the smoking area with the large screen. He responded that the smoking area was already too crowded and pointed at the table in the non-smoking area. The next time I tried to make the best of what was for me a frustrating situation and stayed in the non-smoking area right from the beginning. By then I had only crossed the smoking area to go to the bathrooms which are located at the end of the smoking area. Soon, I decided to sit down close to the bar on a barstool. Despite the relatively harsh rejection right at the beginning of my fieldwork I kept on going to the pub for several months. I wanted to find out what it would require to take a seat in the smoking area.

What was so special about the smoking area? Obviously, the smoking area was not only about smoking, although visitors made use of this feature extensively. In the smoking area people had the best view of the big screen at the end of the room, which was installed before the matches. In an object hierarchy, the screen can be considered to be at the top of the list in this temporarily constructed football space. Martina Low defines space as a relational construct of subjects and social objects (Low 2001, p. 154). Michel de Certau underlines that space transforms depending on different contexts (de Certeau 2006, p. 345). In line with this, objects and people relate to each other and produce space in different ways. Accordingly, the installation of the screen determines the position of chairs and how people sit: everybody turns in the direction of the screen and chairs are directed to the screen as well. Objects are part of the construction of space (Low 2001, p. 155) and due to the dominance of the screen conversations with other people at the different tables are limited.

This construction directly impacts social hierarchies of the pub visitors. The most attractive seats, those with the best view, are allocated depending on the social status of a person or group, next to making a reservation in good time. It was only when Fenerbahqe played that reservations were necessary, as the pub was then incredibly crowded. People’s status can be defined by their level of mobility in the pub: the less boundaries they experience and thus the more mobile they act, the higher is their social status. They get, for example, the seats with the best view.

I also visited the pub when it was not a ‘football place’, like in the afternoons. It was a completely different place. Not many of the rules that applied for the time of the football matches were relevant now. It was not crowded, so everybody could sit wherever he or she wanted. People were mostly quietly talking, no cheering and no yelling. TVs were switched off and the linen screen was not installed and therefore people looked at each other or at their newspapers while their chairs were pointed to the table and not to a screen.

Participant observation and conversations revealed that close friends, relatives and ‘real fans’ were the ones that could mostly get hold of the best seats. A real fan, in this case, was defined as someone who loves his or her club, is loyal, supporting, and is always up-to-date in club matters, as the main bartender, Alper, explained later in an interview. The key players in this specific social space were the owner and the main bartender, who I had met during my first visit in the pub. They decided on reservations and on who gets which seats.

Consequently, I decided to sit down right at the bar, close to the owner and the main bartender. There I was in a central position, and thus had the opportunity to talk to them and vice versa they could talk to me whenever they had time and interest. After a while the seat at the bar became ‘my’ seat and other people had to leave when I arrived. This can be interpreted as my growing social acceptance in the pub and also as a symbol for my slightly increasing social capital. However, my mobility in the pub was still very limited. I could certainly not become a ‘real fan’ to improve my social status, but I somehow had to convince the key players of my serious interest in Turkish football and its Viennese fans. This was crucial because being mobile was a key condition that would enable me to conduct a long-term participant observation in this pub.

People were sceptical about my interest in Turkish football and often communicated this openly. Sometimes they did it in a more serious and sometimes in a humorous manner. One reason why they were being sceptical about me and my research at the beginning was why I as a German woman in Austria was interested in Turkish football. Very often the topic got onto the subject of my German background. People called me, mostly in a friendly way, teasing me, but still degradingly, ‘Piefke , the belittling Austrian term for Germans. I could repeat myself as often as I wanted that I was interested in Turkish football because I wanted to find out how being a fan geographically far away from a club works. I was missing the entrance ticket as I had no connection to Turkish football whatsoever. Many stayed sceptical until the end of the research. Victoria Schwenzer and Nicole Selmer write about the strong emotional family-oriented aspect of fandom, taking a Galatasaray fan as an example (2010, p. 401). In many interviews the love of Galatasaray and Fenerbah^e was narrated as strongly connected to family and to discourses of home. I was missing this link and could not generate it.

One other reason for a sometimes difficult start was that people were sceptical about my intentions as a researcher. This does also apply for the student group from Istanbul. After all, I was not only an outsider but to a certain extent also an intruder that was ‘claiming’ to do research. Right at the beginning of my research in 2012 I became aware of the fact that the interest in Turkish football outside a constructed Turkish community is rather rare. Cem, a Galatasaray fan of the student group, for instance, asked me very seriously whether I was bullied by Turkish boys in school and whether I was now trying to compensate for that with my research.[2] People wondered about my intentions, assuming that I must have another reason for conducting this research, a motive that had nothing to do with football. People were searching for a reason to normalise and rationalise my presence in the field. Although there were often also female fans in the Fenerbah^e Pub and also in the student group, my gender was yet another ‘exotic’ aspect of my unusual interest in Turkish football. Women still have to prove themselves to be a ‘real fan’ and to be ‘honestly’ interested in football whereas men are more easily accepted (cf. Rapoport and Regev 2016).

The scepticism about me and my interest in Turkish football was also present in the student group from Istanbul but was not so intense.

A significant factor that distinguished the two approaches in many terms were the differences and similarities in terms of social class, subculture and generally about similar backgrounds. With the student group fans I shared experiences of studying as well as political views and musical interests. Not surprisingly I entered the research field via this group of fans, the group of fans that is the most similar to my own milieu and where I therefore also gained access more easily (cf. Lindner 1984). In the Fenerbahqe Pub several people were also studying but many were working in jobs that do not require university degrees. Their musical interests were different. Many were politically interested but to a different extent and in a different framework. Until the end, some referred to my research as ‘for your master’s thesis’ (fur deine Diplomarbeit). At the beginning I corrected them telling that it was meant for my PhD thesis, especially when they were wondering why my research was taking so long. After a while I stopped doing so because I did not want to come across as snobbish. To put it in a nutshell, the pub visitors and I did not have much in common. This is why, in contrast to the student group, at the beginning we did not really have many things to talk about - except for football. But then again: my interest in football, the only topic for conversations, was strongly doubted.

After a while, the situation changed. Due to my other fieldwork more and more topics came up that we could talk about, which helped me to get accepted in the pub. This particularly meant getting a more personal connection to the two key players: the owner, Emre, and the bartender, Alper. One of those key situations occurred when I was coming back from a Champions League match in Gelsenkirchen where Schalke had played Galatasaray on 12 March 2013.[3] It became an important topic of conversation in the pub: ‘Nina attended the Gala match at Schalke.’[4] Another important occurrence was that my favourite fan object back then, Borussia Dortmund, was successful in the Champions League in that season. Now we could talk about how Dortmund was playing, how successful they might end up in the knock-out phase and how much of a


typical ‘Piefke Jurgen Klopp is. I was still not a Fenerbahqe or Galatasaray fan, but now people noticed that I had a fan object of my own and therefore I could show that I comprehended how it is to be emotional about a football club. Almut Sulzle argues convincingly that researchers who are football fans and conducting research in their own field of fan expertise are often blind about their research because of being too involved (Sulzle 2011, p. 36). A general interest in football, however, and an emotional connection to a football club turned out to be one of the entrance tickets to my research field.

Shortly after that, in April 2013, I experienced a breakthrough in the pub during a Super Lig match. I had again taken ‘my’ seat on the barstool at the bar when the owner came running to behind the bar to get a drink. He was always sitting with his friends right in front of the screen in a set of comfortable chairs in the smoking area. After talking to me shortly he asked me whether I wanted to join him in the smoking area. I immediately agreed and followed him to the most wanted seats with the best view where he introduced me to his friends. When the owner invited me to join him and his friends at their table right in front of the screen I was visibly declared an accepted visitor of the pub. My social status improved drastically as one of the key players had invited me. I now felt like I could move in the pub more freely and talk to people because one of the key persons in the field had qualified me to do so. According to the concept of social capital I was now able to profit from my newly gained social capital because of being a member in a group or network.

Pierre Bourdieu defines social capital as relationships of mutual recognition that are to a certain extent institutionalised. This means that the social capital is generated from being a member in a group or network of people (Bourdieu 1983, pp. 190-1). Thereby, it is not only the simple existence of social relationships that an individual can refer to that decide on the social capital. It is also the economic, cultural or symbolic capital of the ones that an individual is in a relationship with that can increase the social capital of an individual (1983, p. 191). In this concept, the negotiation of a possible inclusion of an outsider into a group is of particular importance. Whenever someone new enters a group it entails on the one hand the chance of multiplying capital further but on the other hand it also inhabits the risk of changing the status of a group and of altering its boundaries if the new person, for example, does not fit the code of the group in the end (1983, pp. 192-3).

For the case of my mobility in the Fenerbahqe Pub, Bourdieu’s approach to social capital offers an understanding of the rather long process to be accepted or recognised in the group. I did not really fit the code (no connection to Turkish football via family members or friends, no link to any guests in the pub and so on) and therefore I was a ‘risk’ for the well-established social group of football fans and its social rules in the Fenerbahqe Pub. I was a threat to the existing boundaries of exclusion and inclusion of the group. In the Fenerbahqe Pub, my social capital was at a very low level because I was not in a social relationship with anybody in the pub. Only my persistent approaching of the owner of the Fenerbahqe Pub who can be considered as one of the persons with the highest social capital in the pub (he knows everyone personally in the pub during football matches) and his very symbolic gesture of recognition finally - to a certain extent - provided me membership and thus social capital. My ‘social value’ in the pub increased immensely.

From that point on I had a greater insight into what was happening in the pub. The rather long path to accessing the smoking area and to people in the pub in general made it possible to draw conclusions about the social status and power relations of other people in the room. It was now possible to get an idea about who was new in the pub and who had been going there for a long time and had a good relationship to Emre and Alper.

  • [1] Fieldnote from 8 November 2012, Fenerbah^e Pub, Vienna, Fenerbah^e vs. Limassol (EuropaLeague), evening.
  • [2] Fieldnote from 5 December 2012, Turkish restaurant (Football Restaurant), Vienna, with thestudent group, Sporting Braga vs. Galatasaray (Champions League), evening.
  • [3] See blog post on the match between Schalke and Galatasaray in Gelsenkirchen/Germany (Szogs
  • [4] Fieldnote from 26 April 2013, Fenerbah^e Pub, Vienna, with people in pub, Fenerbah^e vs.Benfica Lissabon (Europa League), evening.
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