Call for Papers : From Habermas to Fanblogs: Exploring the Public Sphere of European Football  



The term public sphere is often related to Jürgen Habermas’s seminal work The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962), which was translated into English in 1989. In his work, Habermas focuses on the transformation of public sphere from a realm which is distinct both from the state and the market, as put by classical liberal theory, to an area which is characterised by the commercialisation and consumerisation trends of the mass society from the 19th century on (Habermas, 1991).

Habermas’s work has been inspiring for many scholars from different disciplines, but the peak moment for Habermasian repercussion within European Studies came when European integration began to be increasingly associated with identity-related and normative aspects of belonging to ‘Europe’ during the debates on the Maastricht Treaty and the European Constitution respectively. Applying his normative concept to the specific case of European integration, Habermas himself observed that a pan-European public sphere was needed as response ‘to the problem of insufficient social integration in the processes of Europeanisation’ (Habermas, 2001: 65). Since that time, the transnationalisation of public spheres in Europe has always been a burning issue in scholarly work on European integration (e.g. Brüggemann 2005; Brüggemann et al. 2006; Peters et al. 2005).

Over the last years, both growing Euroscepticism and the effects of the economic and financial crisis have put the vital question of ‘what binds Europeans together?’ high on the agenda. If the process of European integration has taught us one thing, it is that we need to do more justice to understanding how and why common experiences, everyday practices and popular culture matter for Europeans. The FREE project (‘Football Research in an Enlarged Europe’) is based on the assumption that football, as Europe’s most widely shared social practice and popular passion capable of reaching out to hundreds of millions of individuals, deserves to be studied rigorously to explore the (possible) construction of a pan-European public sphere (Sonntag, 2012).

Call for papers

Against this background, you are cordially invited to submit contributions to the FREE conference, ‘From Habermas to Fanblogs: Exploring the Public Sphere of European Football’, organised by the Centre for European Studies, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, on 25 and 26 April 2014. The conference will be exploring four main dimensions of public sphere in relation to football:

1. Theoretical and conceptual issues around the notion of ‘public sphere’. Where is the link between theories of public sphere and the practice of football in all its different forms? How far can the concept of public sphere be stretched towards including apparently non-political issues relating to popular culture? How can we theorise the persistent pan-European fascination with football?

2. The contour and scope of the European football space. Defining what exactly the term ‘Europe’ encompasses has always been difficult. To what extent does football provide alternative definitions or perceptions? Is ‘the Europe of football’ a meaningful category? To what extent does the perception of this category vary across the continent? How does the notion of ‘migration’ in all its forms and dimensions impact the emergence and definition of a pan-European public sphere related to football?

3. New media – new public sphere? Technological progress over the past 25 years has given us a myriad of novel ways for dissemination of information. New media and social networks have enabled ‘ordinary people’ to appear in new roles as producers. Football, already the object of massive discourse in traditional media, is omnipresent in new media as well. What does this mean for the construction of a transnational public sphere? And, from a methodological perspective, what are the best ways to explore and interpret new media discourse about football across the continent?

4. Football stadia as spaces of political expression. Football stadia regularly bring together thousands of citizens in a very particular space and context. What forms of political expression are possible in these spaces? What is the impact of this expression in different places across and around Europe? There are numerous fan groups throughout Europe which openly associate themselves with certain political ideas – do they contribute to a “public sphere” across borders?

The deadline for this Call for Papers was 1 January 2014 & has been moved to 31 January 2014.

 Please click here to download the full Call for Papers