War as a Form of Life: The Agonistic Culture of Italian Ultras

By Mark Dyal.

Published by The Sport Collection

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The Ultras, the organized and ritualized fan organizations associated with professional soccer in Italy, exhibit a broad array of aesthetic and political behaviors. Given the latter, it is surprising that many researchers have studied the Ultras primarily as an aesthetic phenomenon, while others have concentrated on either the violent aspects of their behavior or the history and development of the phenomenon in general. While focusing on the ideological and historical elements that give substance to many Ultra behaviors, this paper, part of a larger project resulting from 15 months of anthropological fieldwork in Rome, Italy, from 2006 to 2008, seeks to explain how both the aesthetic and political facets of the Ultras operate within their agonistic culture. This agonistic culture, also thought of as a “culture of opposition,” has developed via knowledge of Counter-Enlightenment thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Julius Evola, and Georges Sorel, as well as immersion in the culture of Fascism, to produce the Ultras’ deep commitments to division, discrimination, and rivalry. Through these the aesthetic and political are rejoined, as the Ultras take oppositional stances to particular aspects of globalization and liberalization, both within and beyond the world of sport.

Keywords: Altruism, Counter-Enlightenment, Globalization, Italy, Militarism, Morality, Rome, Ultras, Violence

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.11-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 649.247KB).

Mark Dyal

Ph.D. Candidate, Cultural Anthropology, City University of New York, New York City, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

I am soon to receive the Ph.D. in Anthropology (Cultural subfield) from CUNY's Graduate Center. The topic of my dissertation is the Ultras associated with AS Roma and what motivates their behaviors. The topic allows me to link sport with politics and political and social history. I have received a Masters in African-American and African Studies from The Ohio State University (2000), as well as a Bachelors in Communications and Philosophy from Florida State University (1993). My research interests are the anthropology of Western Europe, the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, and Sport; Counter-Enlightenment thought; Epistemology; Fascism; Political Philosophy; Modern Italian history; and Classical history. I am also interested in Hardcore music and soccer. I am married and have one son.