A 'Key Emotional Episode'

At the end of April 2013, I had made plans with the owner to watch Real Madrid play Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League with him and his friends in the Fenerbah^e Pub. Now I was the one who was nervous because of a match that I considered to be most important for me. I was sweating while the others were now looking at me and not the other way around as during the other matches. Suddenly, I could be seen, heard, sensed and probably also smelled in a way I and the others were not used to, while the others were relaxed. This is when a so-called ‘key emotional episode’ (Berger 2009) occurred, which then revealed how my role was negotiated in the field.

The discussion of the ‘key emotional episode’ will be introduced by a short excerpt from the fieldnotes from 30 April 2013.

Last Thursday, I was asking the owner whether they will also show the other European matches in the pub. Consequently, we made plans to watch the Dortmund match together. When I enter I can see that the pub is not crowded. It is about ten minutes to kick-off. The only person I know is the owner’s brother. Then I see the young bartender [I had met him several times before], but no sign of the owner. I ask the brother whether they will show the match. He confirms. We joke about the fact that today I can choose where to sit since all the seats are empty. I choose the smoking area and there I take a table close to the screen. When the owner finally arrives, he sits next to me and asks whether I am nervous. I affirm. After a few minutes some friends of his arrive. They start talking and finally ask if they can join us. The owner responds gesturing towards me: Sure, she is one of us. [...]

At the end of the second half the match unexpectedly gets exciting when Real Madrid has the chance to turn the match around. I start loudly complaining about how Dortmund is playing. I am offending different Dortmund players in a — relatively — harmless manner. “Move yourself, you idiot!”

[Lauf endlich, du Penner!] is probably one of the worst insults that I yell. Because of this I cannot fully understand what happens next. I can’t even remember which of the players I was yelling at, at the time. But suddenly all the guys at the table are looking at me. They, especially the owner, start commenting on my insults towards the Dortmund players by “teasing” me and accusing me of being a racist: “Ha-ha, how funny, Nina, the racist, is sitting here with lots of Turks at the table.” The laughter lasts for a while. I am shocked and start asking myself whether I have said anything that could be interpreted as a racist remark. I cannot think of anything, except that I was offending all of the Dortmund players, including the ones that are not from Germany or that who have the often quoted “migrant background”. I do not really know how to react and finally I also start laughing.[1]

This situation is revealing several insights about what the pub staff and some visitors were thinking about me watching football with them that day and also about me frequenting the pub in general. When the owner’s brother and I started joking about the fact that on that day I could sit wherever I wanted, it became clear that my struggle for a place in this environment has not been unnoticed. Additionally, it became clear that in this specific field a Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid match in the Champions League is not of great interest to most of the usual clientele of the Fenerbah^e Pub. The part that is most interesting for the analysis of the interaction between people in the pub and me was the moment when Emre called me a ‘racist’.

There are two central points about this incident: expected emotional practices and the construction and perception of the ethnicised other. When we were watching the match together, it was unusual that I was showing emotions so enthusiastically. This does not mean that this kind of behaviour is unusual for me in general but in the context of my research in the Fenerbah^e Pub it was rather unexpected due to my different emotional practices in the past. All the other times, I had just been sitting there quietly and often awkwardly observing what other people were doing. I suddenly changed my behaviour and stepped over the boundaries of my role in the research field.

I consider this incident a ‘key emotional episode’ because the reactions of the ‘researched’ to the emotional performance of the ‘researcher’ were unexpected. It particularly reveals that I was not just sitting there at the table with Emre and his friends as a fellow football fan or football researcher but also and particularly as a ‘non-Turkish’ person. When, at the end of the match, I started yelling at different players my co-spectators interpreted this jokingly or not jokingly as racist remarks. Even if they were teasing me in a friendly way, the incident underlines how unusual this situation must have been so that especially the owner needed to comment on it in an ironic way, although or maybe particularly because he stated at the beginning in front of his friends: ‘Sure, she is one of us.’

Likewise, because he assumed that he could make this kind of joke with me, he underlined our good social relationship in front of the others. On the one hand by making clear that they are Turks and I am not, he reproduced and underlined the ethnicised differences between us. Most importantly, it also meant that I in my social position was assumed able to make racist remarks. But on the other hand he made clear that we two did have a close social relationship and that I was - somewhat - part of the group, that I was an inside-outsider.

Kotthoff et al. (2013) discuss the role of humour with a special focus on contexts of migration. They define different social functions that humour inhabits. Humour is important to negotiate belonging and also recognition. It is an essential social practice to (re)produce, (re)define or subvert boundaries (Kotthoff et al. 2013, p. 14). In the discussed situation in the field, Emre uses humour to negotiate the boundaries between us. He reproduces the boundary of him being Turkish and me not being Turkish, moreover me being part of that section of society that has the discursive power to discriminate against Turks. This boundary, however, does not only exclude me, but, by jokingly emphasising the difference, he also recognises me as an accepted member of this little football group watching the Champions League in his pub.

It was often important in my research field that I am a foreigner in Austria. As a German citizen, I was on the one hand a privileged migrant, as discussed in Chap. 2, but also subjected to discriminating discourses against Germans in Austria. In an Austrian-Turkish community these prejudices against Germans are similarly evident as in other parts of

Austrian society. In this case, however, it was rather random whether I was German or Austrian. It was more important what I represented in that moment. I tried very hard not to correspond to the cliche of the ignorant German and no matter what, especially not to be considered a racist. I was often lost in awkward situations when I was for example trying to describe whom I was looking for my research. Explaining my research with ‘I am researching Super Lig in Vienna’ was often summarised as: ‘Ok, you mean Turkish fans.’[2] To accuse me particularly of being racist can therefore also be understood as a humorous and mocking response to my awkward attempt at always being politically correct.

At the same time, the owner was testing me and my response to this kind of teasing and I somehow passed the test. It is also again a reflection of the unusualness of my research interest that somehow needs to be normalised. This was sometimes also done by introducing me mockingly as: ‘She studies Turkology’.[3] By doing so, Emre was showing his scepticism about my study and a certain fear of generalisation and of being ‘Turkified’, but more importantly also his humorous acceptance. Nevertheless, here again he revealed the limits of his acceptance: He was fine with me doing the research in his pub but by joking he showed me the limits of his consent. He made clear that he would not accept generalisations or racist remarks.

With regard to my integration into the field, this incident had a rather positive effect. Now the owner quite often invited me to the seats at the very front in the smoking area and I received a lot of help in planning my stadium visits in Istanbul.

  • [1] Fieldnote from 30 April 2013, Fenerbah^e Pub, Vienna, with owner and his friends, Real Madridvs. Borussia Dortmund (Champions League), evening.
  • [2] Fieldnote from 2 May 2013, Young Fenerbah^e Fan Club & Fenerbah^e Pub, Vienna, withyoung Fenerbah^e fans and people in pub, Benfica Lissabon vs. Fenerbah^e (Europa League),evening.
  • [3] Fieldnote from 14 April 2013, Fenerbah^e Pub, Vienna, with people in pub, Fenerbah^e vs.Eskifehirspor (Super Lig), evening.
 
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