WHICH TEAM DO YOU PLAY FOR?: VISIBILITY AND QUEERING IN BRAZILIAN SOCCER
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Brazilians designate their country “O País de Futebol” (The Country of Football) with a singular vigor. But from its earliest years, the sport has been defined along masculine lines; women in Brazil were actually banned from playing soccer for four decades (1940 - 1979). The exclusion of women, gay men, and trans athletes has come under considerable challenge in the past two decades. This dissertation traces how marginalized groups have claimed access to soccer, and what it means for processes of visibility, assimilation, and ultimately, queering the game itself. Combining ethnographic, archival, and visual methods, the project unfolds over three case studies focused on women, trans, and gay players, respectively. The first chapter presents a history of Brazilian women’s soccer: using media sources and interviews, it tracks tensions between women athletes’ demands to be seen and the gendered forms of disciplining that have accompanied their increased visibility. Such disciplining has contributed to the whitening and feminization of women’s soccer, as seen in the case of the Paulistana tournament, and to the subsequent migration of Brazil’s top athletes. These migrant players have since used their transnational networks to jockey for recognition and a more equitable distribution of resources. My second chapter offers an ethnography of Brazil’s first trans men’s soccer team, the Brazilian Meninos Bons de Bola (MBB, or Soccer Star Boys), to explore futebol as a site for combating invisibility and violence, creating transness, and queer worldmaking. Using a combination of focus groups, ethnographic observations, and interviews, I explore how team members theorize oppression, survive transphobia, and thrive. My third chapter analyzes the challenges facing the Brazilian BeesCats, a cis gay men’s soccer team, as they form the first Brazilian contingent to participate in the international Gay Games. Drawing from ethnographic data from the 2018 Paris Gay Games, I examine the ethnosexual frontiers of this international LGBT sporting event. Ultimately, I argue, the athletes described in this dissertation make claims on their national sport as part of deeper struggles for belonging. In the context of a culturally rightward turn in Brazil, they are also queering futebol and subverting gender ordering.