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CULTURAL PRACTICES AND SOCIAL FORMATIONS IN A REFORMING SOCIETY: THE TRANSNATIONAL FANDOM OF EUROPEAN FOOTBALL IN CHINA

Abstract
This dissertation explores the Chinese fandom of European male football and its relation to the formation of the Chinese urban middle class. I use online and offline ethnography, critical discourse analysis and textual analysis to examine the socio-cultural roots, technological conditions, and political implications of Chinese fans’ transmedia practices. My findings are twofold. First, I argue for the articulation between the European football fan identity and the subject of urban middle class emerging from the post-Maoist social restructuring. This articulation is reflected from these fans’ active reading of the European football text and their access to European football as conditioned by social positions. Second, in the examination of fans’ appropriation of digital media in televised spectatorship, community building, and online deliberations, I analyze the individualistic nature of these fans’ collectivity enabled by digital fan practices and how this individualistic virtual collectivity has limitations in terms of further power struggles and political actions. I conclude that localized digital technologies facilitating European football fans’ virtual collectivity around and progressive interpretation of a transnational text are themselves part of China’s state project of authoritarian digital capitalism that articulates neoliberal individualism and authoritarianism through technological revolution.
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