“Days in the dirt”: an ethnography on cricket and self
Bowles, Harry Christopher Richard
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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This study provides a representation of the lived transitional experiences of a group of student-cricketers on a passage toward professional cricket. Set in the local context of a university cricket academy, the investigation focused on players’ adoption of a cricketing role that they used in combination with their structured cricketing environment to explore what it might be like to be professional cricketers. The aim of the research, therefore, was to portray a culturally embedded process of identity-exploration through which a group of young men arrived at a conception of themselves as ‘cricketers’. The data on which the study is based have been drawn from research conducted over twenty seven months from November 2010 to March 2013 where I, as a researcher, became immersed in the research context as an active member of the participant group. The methodological approach of ethnography was used to obtain an insider’s account of the student-cricket experience as seen from the point of view of the actors involved. Application of traditional ethnographic techniques such as participant observation, note taking and unstructured, field-based ‘interviews’ provided the means through which situated, day-to-day experiences were captured and explored. What is presented, therefore, reflects some of the contextual responses to real-life situations experienced by the group and its individuals, mediated through a developing analytical interest in players’ identity engagements with their cricketing environment from the theoretical standpoint of ‘emerging adulthood’ (Arnett, 2000, 2004). Adding to the ethnographic accounts offered within this thesis, the study contributes a conceptual framework that plots players’ transitional pathways through the academy to share the key points of interaction that impinged on individual participants ‘finding their level’ in the game. Through contact and exposure to a cricketing way of life, players’ involvement with the academy saw their cricketing experiences intensify and their attachments to the game transform. This resulted in individuals either accepting or rejecting cricket based on what they came to know about themselves and the game, with the findings of the research helping to further understanding on how a group of ‘emerging adults’ engaged with the ‘project’ of their self-identities to reach a point of self-understanding on which to base prospective identity-decisions.
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