Dispossessing bare life: Towards a theoretical framework for examining power relations through economic development at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa

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Prouse, Valerie Carolyn
Power relations , International development , Sport mega events
In the past twenty years an increasing number of Global South nations have vied for the rights to host prestigious and expensive sport mega events. This trend requires significant reflection given the enormous economic costs of these events, which often produce little capital gain for the host nation (Whitson & Horne, 2006). Furthermore, sport mega events are often utilized for their symbolic capital (Belanger, 2009), which sometimes manifests through forcing people from their land for the sake of “beautification” (Davis, 2006). In this project, then, I asked how technologies of power were utilized by FIFA, corporate stakeholders, and the South African government to control people who were marginal to, or impeded the success of, the World Cup in Nelspruit, South Africa. This project consisted of two parts: the first involved constructing a theoretical framework for better understanding power as it operates through sport mega events in general. To this end I employed Marxian notions of the ordering of physical space, Foucauldian conceptions of sovereignty and governmentality, and Agamben’s (1998) state of exception to determine how particular bodies are constituted and controlled through sport mega events. In the second part, I applied this theoretical framework to the events in South Africa to better elucidate how people became displaced and killed because of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. I used South African popular news and documentaries as empirical evidence and conducted a discursive analysis of said news media. Through this coverage it became apparent that the mega event created the conditions in which new forms of rogue sovereign partnerships could arise through a historically and spatially contingent process of capitalism. The rogue sovereigns’ para-juridico-political orders, the discourses and practices of accumulation by dispossession as a tactic and effect of govermentality, and other historical non-capital subjectivities such as racial identity, all contributed to constituting Agamben’s state of exception in which people could be displaced, killed or left to die in the events surrounding the World Cup.
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