CMST Professors Claire King and John Sloop Publish New Books
In May, Professor Sloop published Soccer’s Neoliberal Pitch: The Sport’s Power, Profit, and Discursive Politics with the University of Alabama Press. American sports agnostics might raise an eyebrow at the idea that soccer represents a staging ground for cultural, social, and political possibility. It is just another game, after all, in a society where mass-audience spectator sports largely avoid any political stance other than a generic, corporate-friendly patriotism. But Sloop picks up on the work of Laurent Dubois and others to see in American soccer—a sport that has achieved immense participation and popularity despite its struggle to establish major league status—a game that permits surprisingly diverse modes of thinking about national identity because of its marginality.
As a rhetorician who draws on both critical theory and culture, Sloop seeks to read soccer as the game intersects with gender, race, sexuality, and class. The result of this engagement is a sense of both enormous possibility and real constraint. If American soccer offers more possibility because of its marginality, looking at how those possibilities are constrained can provide valuable insights into neoliberal logics of power, profit, politics, and selfhood.
In Soccer’s Neoliberal Pitch, Sloop analyzes a host of soccer-adjacent phenomena: the equal pay dispute between the US women’s national team and the US Soccer Federation, the significance of hooligan literature, the introduction of English soccer to American TV audiences, the strange invisibility of the Mexican soccer league despite its consistent high TV ratings, and the reading of US national teams as “underdogs” despite the nation’s quasi-imperial dominance of the Western hemisphere. An invaluable addition to a growing bookshelf on soccer titles, Soccer’s Neoliberal Pitch serves as a model for critical cultural work with sports, with appeal to not only sports studies, but cultural studies, communication, and even gender studies classrooms.
In July, Professor King published, Mapping the Stars: Celebrity, Metonymy, and the Networked Politics of Identity with The Ohio State University Press. Often dismissed as trivial or even “trash,” celebrity culture offers a unique way of considering what it means to be human. In Mapping the Stars, King shows how close analysis of the complex and sometimes contradictory forms of celebrity culture can challenge dominant ideas about selfhood. In particular, as a formation that develops across time, mediums, and texts, celebrity is useful for demonstrating how humanness is defined by relationality, contingency, and even vulnerability.
King considers three stars with popular and controversial personas: Norman Rockwell, Will Smith, and Kim Kardashian. Working in very different contexts and with very different public images, these figures nonetheless share a consistent, if not conspicuous, interest in celebrity as a construct. Offering intertextual readings of their public images across such sites as movie posters, magazines, cinema, and social media—and deploying rhetorical theories of metonymy (a linguistic device linking signifiers by shared associations)—King argues that these stars’ self-reflexive attention to the processes by which celebrity is created and constrained creates opportunities for reframing public discourse about what it means to be famous and what it means to be a person.