State of play: The political ontology of sport in Amazonian Peru

by Harry Walker

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Building on the importance of “play” in traditional sociality, organized team sports such as soccer are instrumental in promoting a new moral and political order among Urarina people of Peruvian Amazonia, one grounded in notions of roles, rules, and the abstract individual. As a vehicle of nationalist sentiment, highly amenable to ritualization and bureaucratization, sport is central to the process by which the state expands its territory and influence. Like warfare, but unifying rather than fragmenting in its effects, sport harnesses the energy and vitality of youth and co-opts them for other ends.

soccer peru
soccer peru

Two boys enjoy free play with the soccer ball late one afternoon in Nueva Unión, Peru. Photo: Harry Walker, September 2006.