Negotiating ‘Modernity’ on the Run: Migration, Age Transition and ‘Development’ in a Training Camp for Female Athletes in Arusha, Tanzania
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts (Distinction)
Sports have recently been incorporated into international development agendas in a bid to 'empower' women and foster gender equality. Considered a masculine domain, sports are argued to empower women by challenging the status quo and their 'traditional' positions in societies.
This thesis examines the use of sport in an athletic training camp for female distance runners located in Arusha, Northern Tanzania. Like other similar camps throughout East Africa, this training camp provides financial support for athletes, recruited from isolated rural areas, to live and train full time in the city. The camp was founded and is run by a Tanzanian couple, known as Gwandu and Mama Gwandu, but it has recently begun receiving financial support from an American development organisation.
The director of this organisation, Karl, aims to empower the young women training in the camp by enabling them to use their sporting talent to further their education. This directly contradicts Gwandu and Mama Gwandu's goals, however, and they strive to enable the girls to improve their lives by earning money from running. The girls themselves perceive running as a unique opportunity to migrate to Arusha and distance themselves from their natal villages. The idea of earning money from running is secondary, for the girls, to the aspiration of settling permanently in the city. Although running provides a common link between the goals of the development organisation, those of Gwandu and Mama Gwandu, and those of the female athletes themselves, the overlap between these goals is only partial. Pragmatic constraints in each case mean the goals remain always unattainable and partially unachieved, and are continually readjusted to fit changing constraints and perceptions of what is possible.
In discussing the different aspirations held by those involved in the training camp, this thesis highlights the multiple ways in which notions of 'modernity' can be understood and enacted. Modernity is a central theme in contemporary African anthropological literature, as is the notion of 'multiple modernities', often used to refer to the culturally diverse interpretations of the meaning of modernity and subsequent efforts to 'become modern'. Using key authors including Ferguson (1999), Snyder (2002; 2005) and Schneider (1970), this thesis argues that, drawing on different influences to enact different cultural styles, the girls, Gwandu and Mama Gwandu imagine and perform 'modernity' in different ways.
Gwandu and Mama Gwandu are shown to draw on notions of maendeleo to construct a localist cultural style, which they attempt to enforce on the athletes in the camp. By contrast, the girls are argued to draw inspiration from what they perceive as the 'city' lifestyle maintained by Malkia – one of Tanzania's most successful female athletes – to construct a cosmopolitan cultural style they gradually gain performative competence in throughout their time in the camp. While both visions emphasise the importance of urbanisation, Gwandu and Mama Gwandu's localism condemns particular practices they conceive of as characteristic of "city life", including the value placed on commodities and modes of consumption that is central to the girls' cosmopolitanism. The clash between Gwandu and Mama Gwandu's goals and those of the girls is most pronounced at the beginning of their time in the camp. The girls’ compliance with camp rules increases with their time spent in the camp, as their vision increasingly overlaps with that of Gwandu and Mama Gwandu. I argue that the clash between their goals is once again pronounced after the girls have left the camp, and attempt to perform the cosmopolitan cultural style in which they have increasingly gained competence during their time in the camp. This discussion raises questions about the ways in which women can be 'empowered' through sports such as running. I argue that it is not running itself that empowers women like Malkia but, rather, the opportunity running affords them to acquire the material resources required, to perform the cosmopolitan style towards which they aspire.