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It was the very first time I went to Parkhead to watch Celtic play Raith Rovers in February 1996. On my way back to the city centre on foot, I was abused by a young white man who stood at a shop entrance near the Glasgow Cross traffic lights. Glancing at me, 'Fuck the Fenians', said he.
Soon after he seemed to realise that I was not white although wearing a green and white Hoops, the next words he shouted at me was 'Damn. God. Chinese bastard's up for Celtic'. The point is how much my body was 'recognisable' for this anti-Celtic young white male person.
Obviously, his surprise does not entirely dislocate the rigid sectarian dichotomy. Instead of that, his racist utterance of 'Chinese bastard' illustrates his incapability of handling my body within his own recognisable ontological category. He perceived my presence but did not recognise it as what Celtic fan should be like. In this respect, his speech act referred to 'mis-recognition' or negative recognition of what did not seem to him as authentic as the category he knew as 'Fenian bastard'. Mis-recognising my body as Chinese rose a double negativity. Firstly, wearing Celtic colour must be his target of verbal abuse. Secondly, when his standard of authenticity of Celtic fan was betrayed, his perception of racial and ethnic boundaries was more clearly expressed with a racist tone. However, his categorical capability about East Asian with yellow skin did not have any choice but 'Chinese'. This is a mis-recognition in terms of my own racial and national background . This is also a negative recognition in the sense that being an East Asian Celtic fan could not be properly situated in his 'ontology' of the football culture in Glasgow.
I began with this incident because it shows well that in the Glasgow's football rivalry, there may be a presupposition that when someone is recognised as a Celtic fan, he or she becomes abjection of Rangers side, and vice versa. The practice of telling, with the visual and verbal effect, could be a vital evidence of this stereotypical presupposition. However, there is a pitfall in this schematic understanding of sectarianism. For this logic may tend to endorse that the recognition by the other is a pre-condition to become a target of sectarian antagonism. Indeed, if a Rangers fan did not recognise someone else as Celtic fan, this person would not abuse or insult him or her. This is to say that if this Celtic fan was abused, this person was recognised as a subject.
This subjectivisation is enacted through 'hailing' or 'interpellation' in Althusser's term . If the Celtic fan was called 'Fenian bastard' and responded, in whatever ways, to this interpellation, his or her body was given its identity as Celtic fan. Whether it is recognition of what the fan thinks is his or her self or simply the misrecognition, the ideological constitution of a subject takes place in the domain of the action. When my body was recognised as a Celtic fan, it is situated in the sectarian cosmology through the anti-Celtic fan's use of language. At the next moment, however, his cognitive mapping shifted its object from sectarian order of identities to racialised differences. What this interaction between language, the body and my silence is not a simple mis-recognition of the defined type of Celtic supporters but another pattern of recognition of otherness through which sectarian differentiation and racialisation are interwoven.
Given this, it is possible to propose that there are some plural dimensions of the politics of recognition. Although current debates on multi-culturalism defy any simplification, there is no doubt that Charles Taylor's proposition of 'equal recognition' is suggestive of diverse ways for the purpose of consideration of my entrance to the ethnographic field . I needed to be recognised among the predominantly white Scottish Celtic supporters. In particular, when I started several in-depth interviews and participant observation in several pubs and inside and outside Celtic Park, the exchange between myself and those who I tried to talk to first began with a struggle over this pattern of mutual recognition. This exchange was uneven from the beginning primarily because the knowledge, the experiences and the resources I wanted to document were provided and narrated from 'their' point of view though, basically, the initial approach was made by me.
By the anti-Celtic man, I was negatively 'recognised' as 'Fenian' but mis-recognised as 'Chinese'. For that moment and location, 'Fenian' was not supposed to be Chinese. It is also true that the body of yellow skin East Asian was supposed to be a Chinese body. The banal surprise of this young man reminded me how, despite the recent cosmopolitanisation in the once flourished 'Second City of Empire', the cosmology of the Old Firm might be pre-defined as racially monopolised and exclusive. My inclusion into the Old Firm fandom was made possible only when I became the target of sectarian name-calling. However, even this inclusion did not last long because of the man's recognition of my racial unlikeliness as a member of Celtic fandom.
Meanwhile, I, as academic researcher, was recognised as coming from the outside of the pre-defined fan community. It was not clear whether my self-declaration as Celtic fan would overarch language, racial and this cultural barrier. More accurately, I was not sure whether this barrier could be overcome or had to be overcome. The relationship between the writing, documenting subject and the written, documented object has to be articulated through the negotiation itself.
Although it might be imaginative, the East End of Glasgow was the first place to stroll when to try to sense Celtic cultures. The central location, Celtic Park, is the focal point where the love and hate for the club seems to be ultimately destined. The area looked totally deserted when no match was played. From the edge of Gallowgate, I can look over the council estate area in north-western side of the stadium. I see several kids around, chatting, footballing, just hanging around, riding mountain bikes and, sometimes, looking at me wandering, doing nothing. Since my first visit to the area on a no-match day, I have never encountered any hostile reactions. However, what I was feeling all the time was a nerve. It is the nervous excitement that made the landscape a monolithic environment and homologous elements among those who are walking, chatting and playing there.
Conventionally, the sense that I felt as homologous and monolithic could be called the 'white working class community'. The visibility of the difference between the colours I could see was the one generated by the combination of green, yellow and white. Those colours are visible on the scarf, Celtic shirt, or cap those kids wear. In fact, it was not only the Celtic colour. I saw a boy wearing a Liverpool shirt and several others having a Manchester United shirt and cap. However, what remains in my sight is not those tricolour or red, but the absence of non-white populations except myself. More accurately, it is impossible to state that the whiteness I have sensed can be interpreted as a racial difference from mine. Whether or not it is essentially a 'racialised colour', I did not have any other words to describe the homogeneous landscape of human gathering. I could not speak of any difference except the one between them and myself.
This environmental perception is a mode of the way in which 'race' emerges as the topic of subjective positioning rather than as the objectified, reified 'material' in the course of my fieldwork. At the same time, the constructing moment of this mono-sociality is in practice double-sustained by two simultaneous gains of a particular sense. On the one hand, I certainly feel 'fear' as a non-white person on the streets. It is not a physical intimidation or verbal abuse towards me. It is an inter-mingled gaze of curiosity with disinterest in my presence. That gaze is not exactly asking why a Japanese, or whoever Oriental, is there. The gaze is the approval not of me but of the matter of factness that even an Oriental can become a Celtic fan, that even someone who does not entirely 'fit in' can behave like 'us'. It is a connective line between the curious combination of glare and glance, and my body. For my part, it is a sense of incongruity perceived through the ways in which the overwhelming homologous landscape of human beings ignites.
On the other hand, at one time I was strolling around the streets and alleys in the East End, I have found myself rather eagerly looking for non-white populations. I did not define any rigid requirement of non-whiteness. Black Scottish, African, Indian, Pakistani or Chinese, I was just keen to find out someone who could be clearly categorised as non-white. This is the same when I take my seat at the stand of Celtic Park, Ibrox, even at Firhill . This search is, in a way, not only motivated by my own anxiety, but also by my experience of being seen by the white population around Celtic Park. Needless to say, the experience lived in the town centre is not entirely compatible to the one at Celtic Park except when I joined the stadium tour as a tourist. It is no doubt that a certain kind of mono-sociality was operative to make me take those two simultaneous ways of seeing the outer environment. Alternatively, it might be safe to say that I was certainly looking for this mono-social cultural domain as my research field.
The vague conception of 'anxiety' is important to specify the mechanism of interaction happening there because the extent to which anxiety works as a nervous reaction is varied according to the ways in which I behave as if I am one of 'them'. Showing the same colour by covering a part of the body with a replica shirt or scarf, and behaving and singing like the fans, are definitely one option, though it may work in totally oppositional way when my racialised difference is naturalised and made conspicuous by the green and white chemical surface. If one similarity makes another difference stand out, and if the differences are recognised because of the similarity, then what Benjamin called the 'commonplace, sensuous area of similarity' gives way to the power of exclusive differentiation. However, because the boundary becomes clear both racially and culturally, the sense of inclusion and exclusion also becomes clear. Therefore, I could see which side of the boundary my own fandom was placed.
My previous experience of being racialised surely helps the nervous system conduct the images to the body knowing anxiety, silent pressure and the sensibility of being somehow different on the location. There is a similarity between this transmission of image to the body and one experience of having found myself being only non-white passenger in a small shopping bus.
Despite all the practical difficulty and the emotional insecurity, I had to write, or I could still hold a position that made me a writing subject. This positionality is in fact protected by what is negatively appropriated in postcolonial studies, which is a concept of 'exoticism'. In dogmatic understanding of Orientalism, exoticism is merely a talisman of negativity. It implies the oppression of the other, the sexualisation of the colonised, or the target of fetishism and reification. However, I believe that there is an ambivalence in the exoticisation of the other. Exoticism could be something more productive for the qualification and entitlement than the simple alienation of the object in the process of consumption. Therefore, I suggest that neither myself nor the people whom I have explored and exploited for the purpose of research can monopolise the cultural boundaries to which we are both supposed to belong.
In my case, I have to admit that I had some exotic presuppositions about Scottish football cultures because the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers has always been at the centre of the world football narrative that I encountered as a Japanese fan. It is always-already more than mere football, more than leisure, more than popular consumption. Glasgow is a totally advanced place in terms of football cultures. For Glasgow's mature, but vernacular football psyche encourages the clubs and their fandom to become more globalised.
Until now, in contrast, my native Japan is regarded as an underdeveloped place as far as the football cultures are concerned. This is partly because those who I have encountered here in Britain are ignorant about the Japanese football cultures and histories. In addition, because exoticism is at work here, the situation in Japan and my experience, knowledge about it, cannot be ontologically accepted by people in Britain, especially in Glasgow. Knowledge flow is strictly uneven. At the same time, the people I encountered during the fieldwork have also seen exoticism in myself. Here we are in the middle of the politics of exoticisation of the other. It is that Taylor is right at this level that the language of 'perspicuous contrast' makes it possible for the interaction between different cultural agencies to take place. Ironically, exoticism helps this interaction occur at the actual site of ethnography.
I was very often talking about football in Japan, the J-League (the Japanese professional football league), Japan's world cup hopes and my pessimistic expectation, and the question as to why there had not been recent Celtic players who played for a J-League club while such Rangers players as Basil Bori and Pieter Huistra played for Urawa Reds and Sanfrecce Hiroshima respectively. This is not because I desire to show how Japanese football is underestimated in the world, or because I thought that I could be entitled to speak about it, but because I became aware that I had to give them some sorts of collateral goods, as a 'counter-gift', in reward for their information, by which further conversation and inter-communication could be effectively produced. This is the effect of 'perspicuous contrast' that is arbitrated by football as common knowledge. More accurately, knowing the trans-national human flow of football world made it possible for me to be engaged with the inter-communicative process with the informants.
However, this contrast is made by exhibiting my nativity to get their nativity out of our interaction and dialogue. 'Perspicuous contrast' is far from innocent, non-boundary and universal golden rule. In my case, it endorses that the Japanese 'national subject' is imagined, regardless of my will. I have become a Japanese not inside a particular nation-state formulation but in the space of Glasgow's pubs which are spatially and geographically detached from where I have come and they imagined I would go back sooner rather than later. The following conversation with Chris was recorded after the interview had been finished.
Horse Shoe is a pub situated in the central part of Glasgow city and used to be a well-known Rangers pub . 'Huns' are the common name calling of Rangers fans and players. I asked him about the possibility of my inclusion in the previously infamous Rangers pub because I wanted to know how the discourse of the rivalry would come out through the accentuation of my presence. The conversation came to an end in a simple conclusion, that is, the narrative of 'us' and 'them', whereas this recognition was made possible by another recognition of my Japanese nationality as 'not us'.
It seems as if knowing about Scottish football and being a Celtic fan have surpassed the significance of my Japanese nationality. For, not because I was a Japanese but because 'they'd know where' I am from, 'Huns never understand' me since 'they're Huns'. This nominalist reasoning partly contributes to constructing the sectarian cosmology in which there are only two, mutually exclusive but inter-dependent possibility of belonging and being. However, the national boundary is not erased and does not have to be erased. The question is why I was described as 'natural' at the beginning of conversation while his colleagues showed their curiosity about what I was doing as a research. There is a thin line between Chris and his colleague in that the former described me as 'natural' while the latter was not convinced of the fact that a Japanese man is interested in the Celtic culture and pursuing the research for the doctoral degree. In this space of dialogue between us, with a certain amount of knowledge and enthusiasm I had been telling, the existence of a Japanese Celtic fan was hardly recognised but regarded neither as unusual or as surprising. With the arbitrarily branded phenomenon of globalisation, another interview partner even suggested seriously that 'Japan money would save the club' and he said that he would 'see no problem. You have to do business and survive'.
While talking about Celtic and exchanging mutual views generate the sense of belonging and the exclusion, inclusion and contingent inclusion, the identities constructed through those interactions are centralised around football. Utterance of 'natural' may highlight on the terrain of fandom, where my inclusion, if tentative and temporal, charaterises the border of 'in' and 'out'. Here, I suggest that there is a tension between belonging to a particular fandom, and to particular racial and national categories. Because of the fact that they and I share the same space of fandom, that tension makes it possible for 'their' recognition of me and my recognition of them to be suspended except the mutual recognition as Celtic fans.
is an extract from a longer text. The original title is:
The cosmology of Celtic fandom: negotiation between sectarian foundationalism and transitional cosmopolitanism.