The Cultural Impact of the Olympics

Over the years, several Duke University Press journal articles have addressed the cultural impact of the Olympics. Take a break from watching the 2014 Winter Games to sample these articles.

Ddglq_19_4webErica Rand, "Court and Sparkle: Kye Allums, Johnny Weir, and Raced Problems in Gender Authenticity," in "The Athletic Issue," a special issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, volume 19 and issue 4, 2013.

Read an excerpt from the article:

At a press conference he initiated to address the gender-test incident, Weir called the terms masculine and feminine "very old fashioned," adding, "There's a whole generation of people that aren't defined by their sex or their race or by who they like to sleep with." My own paradise would not involve throwing out masculinity and femininity or sex and race all together. They can serve as sources of pleasure, strength, community, and solidarity, inside and outside the sport, in ways that do not require policing them. If people of all genders could express, present, or perform in sport in whatever gendered ways they wanted to–which might or might not match up with the way they present themselves in other contexts–that would make for a more joyous sport. But Weir's distaste for having people define others by those terms gestures to effects of gender policing beyond fitting people into categories. As he states in Welcome to My World, being called "flamboyant" instead of "athlete" is another.

To read more from "Court and Sparkle," click here



Sally Anne Duncan, "Souls Grown Deep and the Cultural Politics of the Atlanta Olympics" in "Performance, Politics, and History," a special issue of Radical History Review, number 98, Spring 2007.

Read an excerpt from the article at the African American performance group Souls Grown Deep:

Unprecedented as it was, Souls Grown Deep was forced to the periphery of the Olympic stage. A vital opportunity was missed to give international visibility to the South’s unique community of African American self-taught artists. This essay examines the social and cultural processes that exalted a banal global art show while suppressing a landmark African American visual performance. This is a case study of the cultural politics of Atlanta, the vested interests of the fine art and folk art worlds, and, most of all, of the performative power of art exhibitions themselves. In Atlanta, the experiential knowledge embedded in the African American artists’ modes of creation and communication in Souls Grown Deep provided a potent social counterpoint to a falsely transcendent Olympic vision embodied in Rings.

To read more from "Souls Grown Deep," click here.

Saq105_2Amy Bass, "Objectivity Be Damned, or Why I Go to the Olympic Games: A Hands-On Lesson in Performative Nationalism," in "The Pleasure Principle: Sport for the Sake of Pleasure," a special issue of SAQ: South Atlantic Quarterly, volume 105 and issue 2, 2006.

Read an excerpt from the article:

My relationship with the Olympics continued after my dissertation was complete and I began my life as a professor at Plattsburgh State University. Within months of arriving in Plattsburgh, I audaciously asked if I could leave the following fall semester to go with NBC in a supervisor role to the Sydney Games. I was indoctrinated: I was part of a small group of highly specialized people who drop everything for several weeks during an Olympic year and gather together, working for whatever network is broadcasting the Games. It is a unique group, knowledgeable in multiple languages, geography, world politics, and specific random sports (from gymnastics to curling to judo, in which it is legal, by the way, to break your opponent's arm as a means to win). Plattsburgh graciously worked out a way for me to go, which included teaching an honors seminar–The Black Athlete–online from Sydney. I returned with more life-altering experiences: watching Marion Jones run, sitting in the bleachers as the United States beat Cuba for the baseball gold medal and listening to rumors that Castro was in the house, and again witnessing a spectacular Closing Ceremony. I reworked the dissertation after returning from Sydney, and by the time Salt Lake City rolled around I was in the final editing phases of my book, Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympic Games and the Making of the Black Athlete, more confident than ever of the viability of sports, especially the Olympics, as a fruitful site to examine how the world works, whether in terms of my own focus on exploring how ideas of race and nation are culturally manufactured, or the broader goals of determining where in the world politics exists.

To read more from "Objectivity Be Damned," click here.

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