Heels over head, and away!

We might as well say that minor no longer designates specific literatures [sports] but the revolutionary conditions for every literature [sport] within the heart of what is called great (or established) literature [sport]. (Deleuze & Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, p. 18).

A minor sport is not a specific kind of sport, the way sets of sports like risk, adventure, extreme or lifestyle sports lead thought to the extravagancies of for instance board sports. To do a minor sport is rather about a certain stance, or, even better, a series of stances. The foremost (ir)rationale of something minor is, as with most of D & G's concepts, deterritorialization.

Deterritorializing means exciting given categories of identity, making them unstable and opening them up for other possibilities. To deterritorialize is to be(come) revolutionary, but without striving for utopia. So it's not so much about freedom as it is about always having a way out (even from freedom?!). The most frequently recurring Kafka-quote in D&G's treatise of the same, is probably 'Head over heels, and away', an imperative of deterritorialization, and, in any situation, or case, the ideal stance.

Where does this leave (or flee) us in the case of sports? A literal inversion, as the allusion of the heading above implies, of 'head over heels and away', was performed by the Columbian goalkeeper, José René Higuita Zapata, in the friendly game between Columbia and England in 1995. His spectacular 'scorpion kick' definitely widened the range of what's expected of and accepted for soccer goalkeepers.

Perhaps agency could be understood thus; as the possible degree of deviance from subject-positions given by the discourse (or diagram).


Outside sports

While such attempts are deemed to failure, critical physical cultural and sport scholars will always have to try to define and categorize sports; modern competitive sports, lifestyle sports, team sports, extreme sports (what's the opposite?) are just some of the labels that circulate. A definition "could only", as Michel Serres warns Bruno Latour about in their fabulous interview-dialogue, "be sketched out at the risk of freezing it [in this case various kinds of sports] once again into statuelike concepts, operations or verbs, too simplistic and coarse" (p.116). Still we must, in order to operationalize.

Perhaps a micropolitical perspective in this most Deleuzian of centuries is appropriate? Reminiscing Foucault as a friend (of wisdom) and as a theorist, Deleuze thoroughly treats each of the former's books with tender, love and care. According to Deleuze, Foucault, due to his Discipline and Punish, established himself as 'a new cartographer'. Deleuze's reading of Foucault acknowledges that there is no inside, no core, no essence, only outside. What appears as inside (various institutions) is only the result of several outside forces clashing.

It is in general a question of method: instead of moving from an apparent exteriority to an essential 'nucleus of interiority' we must conjure up the illusory interiority in order to restore words and things to their constitutive exteriority. We must even distinguish between several correlative agencies, of which there are at least three. There is first of all the outside which exists as an unformed element of forces.: the latter come from and remain attached to the outside, which stirs up their relations and draws out their diagrams. And then there is the exterior as the area of concrete assemblages, where relations between forces are realized. And lastly there are the forms of exteriority, since the realization takes place in a split or disjunction between two different forms that are exterior to one another and yet share the same assemblages (confinements and interiorizations being only transitory figures on the surface of these forms) (p.43).

In this regard different sports could be categorized in relation to how many and which forms of exteriority they put on display. Most modern competitive sports, for instance, appear as insides due to their affinity with national and international governing bodies, and hence also with the whole chapter in history of nation-states. Newer forms of sports, without IGBs and NGBs with monopoly, like skateboarding, eSports, and parkour are more overtly exterior. The illusionary insides, 'covertly exterior sports', struggle against the outside noise, which threats to reveal the ephemerality of the insides' notions of them being social systems. And it's a worthy struggle. Overtly exterior sports are much more vulnerable to fragmentization (as was the case with Parkour/freerunning, as well as with eSports).

This demonstration, rather than definition, is still dynamic and open for difference and change. Soccer could be more overtly exterior as in schoolyards and beaches, or covertly exterior, as in the upcoming Champion's League final between Inter and Bayern München. Coupled with Deleuze and Guattari's conceptual cluster of territorialization/deterritorialization/reterritorialization, the concepts of outside, exterior, and forms of exteriority, allow for a to and fro movement, specific to each setting. Perhaps via a dromographic account of the micropolitics of the given sport?

Still unanswered, though, is the question: what makes the chimairic insides of covertly exterior sports resemble each other? Could it be boiled down to mere competition? And where, then, does this leave the concept of a minor (and a Major) sport? Plausibly, Major sport is a pure pole, stripped of everything but the competition clause. But this doesn't mean that minor sport is the same as overtly exterior sports.

D & G mean that Kafka created a 'minor literature' in writing, as a jew in Prague, in German. He pushed the language of the German bureaucrats and oppressors to its limit and beyond, in a stuttering kind of way. Minor literature (as well as sport) is an insider practice with an outsider agenda. Outsider, not as in spy or enemy, but as a pure Foucauldian outsider. To become foreign within, be it language, or sports. Think outsidish inside whatever box. In other words: parasitism. A perfect illustration of this is Barbara Fornssler and Sean Smith's treatment of the concept of the 'switch', which they develop in their analysis of the boardercross-athlete Lindsey Jacobellis' famous final, stuttering, race in the Olympic winter games in Turin 2006.


Dromography - a D&Graphy?

At least some perspectivization of the body should be required in all physical cultural studies. But that's not sufficient, concepts of movement must also be added. Perhaps a writing of displacement, a 'dromography', could be developed? This said, it should be added that I'm perfectly aware of the problems, as pointed out by Erin Manning, with conceiving of movement as mere displacement. For now and for the sake of the argument it will suffice.

In their seminal working out of the concept of Nomadology in A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari make a great deal of Paul Virilios oeuvre. The demonstration of how becoming really is, or rather becomes, difference is really lucid when they pick up the various 'man-thing-animal'-assemblages of different barbaric tribes, as worked out by Virilio.

The second concept of great importance, that D&G borrow from Virilio in this twelfth chapter of their most scrumptious Mille Feuille, is that of 'dromocracy'. Dromos is Greek for course, route, street, and perhaps even vector and trajectory. This neologism offers a perspective on power which is related to speed, and, more precisely, to the control of speed. Controlling speed is a potent wielding of power. This is measured by the methodological approach of 'dromoscopy'. To make it more compatible with social science, and to integrate in to ethnography, perhaps the suffix -graphy is preferred here. 'Dromography' is already done out there, this is just a suggestion for the baptism. Without knowing the full extent of Virilio's concept, I suppose a dromography would work more hands-on with the small-scale practices, like a PK-Jam, or a game of soccer, whereas dromoscopy perhaps is more suited for larger networks.

It seems, though, like Virilio is a bit more dystopian (i.e. worried about the development of speeding technologies) in his establishing of the concept, whereas D&G, although aware of the coercion of segmenting striae, elicit a revolutionary potential from speed for their nomadic becomings. Does this imply that a embodiment of speed is a pivotal part of, what's known as, agency?

In that case, and if each sport and movement culture has it's way of controlling and releasing speed, how should this be analyzed? Many of the critical articles on sport, that I've come over, run tiny demonstrations of the very practice (movement, speed, etc.) as part of the introduction to the problem. Not very many create categories out of such an analysis. On the other hand, a plethora of concepts are created which relate to 'molar' categories like social class, gender, ethnicity, etc. While these are useful and important, my main interest lies with the 'molecular' aspects of sports. Getting a grip on how to analyze displacements, trajectories, and speed in given sport could provide a good compliment to the repertoires of sport scholars.

How you conceive of movement should differ greatly depending on what concepts you're founding your understanding of it. In my way folks like D&G, Michel Serres, Paul Virilio should do the trick. They are explicitly, although in different ways, working with speed.


Towards a minor sport

In their treatise on Kafka, Deleuze and Guattari establish the concept of a minor literature. Ever since it seemed like almost anything could be(come) minor: Cinema, Theatre, Science, Philosophy, etc. Now the turn has come to Sports.

Curiously enough, in Swedish, minor is plural for mines (as in sneaky explosives). So what am I up to, blow up the house of sports to smithereens? Not at all. I love sports like a parasite (a true investigator of holey space) loves its host.