Sporting Masculinities: Football and Gender in Kozhikode and Malappuram, Kerala


Veena Mani

PhD defended at: 

IIT Madras, Chennai, India


My project attempts to unpack the complex relationship between masculinities and football in Kozhikode and Malappuram. I explore how football plays an intimate part in the everyday lives of many young men. In the chapters, I discuss the similarities and diversities within forms of hegemonic masculinities in relation to the field of football. Additionally, I explain how football as a form of work for many men, refigures one’s attachment to one’s body. Lastly, I discuss sports fans as political subjects who can create significant spaces for political activities, laying claim to certain places and representations, even as they maintain a complex relationship with the dominant modes of political engagements exemplified by political parties.
The imports of such engagements can be found in the performances of certain masculinities in different regions where political location and activity becomes a constitutive part of what it takes to be a particular kind of man. In the introductory chapter, I discuss the major concepts and methods I used in my project. Additionally, I introduce my field site and locate my research questions within the existing literature. While it is a location of gender struggles, football in Kozhikode and Malappuram is also an important source of work and a strategic setting for political activities. Both these aspects of work and political engagements shape the perception and performance of
masculinities in relation to football in Kozhikode and Malappuram. The next three chapters explore the following three major research questions:
1) What are the ways in which dominant forms of masculinities relate to football practices
in Kozhikode and Malappuram?
2) What are the implications of football when it is also a form of work in addition to being a
major leisure activity in the region?
3) What are the political possibilities of football fan associations in a locality, otherwise
identified as marginalized and oppressed and what are the ways in which this inflects an
understanding of masculinities?
In the chapters, I explore the multiple ways in which football, specifically sevens football, is associated with different facets of many young men’s lives in Kozhikode and Malappuram. The attachments are multiple, contradictory and intersecting in nature. Football is a site of both solidification and subversion of gender norms, and football in Kerala offers interesting space to study how regional understandings of certain masculinities are valorized and reproduced.