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Between football and martyrdom: the bi-focal localism of an Arab-Palestinian town in Israel

The British Journal of Sociology
Volume 56 No 4 December 2005
pages 635-661

Abstract

Studies of the relationship between nationalism and localism have brought evidence that these orientations might maintain either relations of opposition or congruence. By conceiving of localism mainly as a strategy, this paper argues that localism can be used alternately as an anchor of nationalist narrative or as an alternative to nationalism by the exact same community. This argument is illustrated by the case of Sakhnin, an Arab-Palestinian town in Israel. Local pride in Sakhnin has developed around two separate foci: a nationalist heroic narrative of martyrdom and the success of the local football team. These two foci developed in complete isolation, since the first is embedded in a Palestinian nationalist narrative while the latter is oriented toward the Israeli Jewish public. An ethnographic study follows the construction of these separate spheres and a survey conducted among 174 men in the town confirms that involvement in the football sphere correlates with both local pride and integrative orientations.

Keywords: Nationalism, localism, minorities, Israel, Palestinians, sport

Tamir Sorek
Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Sociology Cornell University

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