Game, Set, Watched: Governance, Social Control and Surveillance in Professional Tennis

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Guay, Marie-Pier
Governmentality , Professional Sport , Governance , Bio-Power , Surveillance , Social Control , Surveillant Assemblage , Nikolas Rose , Disciplinary Power , Tennis
Contrary to many major sporting leagues such as the NHL, NFL, NBA, and MLB, or the Olympic Games as a whole, the professional tennis industry has not been individually scrutinized in terms of governance, social control, and surveillance practices. This thesis presents an in-depth account of the major governing bodies of the professional tennis circuit with the aim of examining how they govern, control, constrain, and practice surveillance on tennis athletes and their bodies. Foucault’s major theoretical concepts of disciplinary power, governmentality, and bio-power are found relevant today and can be enhanced by Rose’s ethico-politics model and Haggerty and Ericson’s surveillant assemblage. However, it is also shown how Foucault, Rose, and Haggerty and Ericson’s different accounts of “modes of governing” perpetuate sociological predicaments of professional tennis players within late capitalism. These modes of surveillance are founded on a meritocracy based on the ATP and WTA rankings systems. A player’s ranking affects how he or she is governed, surveilled, controlled, and even punished. Despite ostensibly promoting tennis athletes’ health protection and wellbeing, the systems of surveillance, governance, and control rely on a biased and capitalistically-driven meritocracy that actually jeopardizes athletes’ health and contributes to social class divisions, socio-economic inequalities, gender discrimination, and media pressure. Through the use of top-players’ accounts, it is also shown how some players resist certain governing, controlling, and surveillance practices designed for their benefit, while others understand and accept the resultant constraints as part of their choice to be a professional tennis player.
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