Understanding a Cultural Transition in Athletes’ Transnational Careers

Tatiana Ryba, Aarhus University, Denmark

Theme: Social and cultural diversity

Program ID: SYM-08

Presentation: October 3, 2013 8:15 am - 9:30 am

Room: Elmwood


A globalized sporting topography, in which crossing of geographic, cultural, linguistic, and political borders is now commonplace, has transformed the course of athletes’ careers and impacted their lifestyle (Maguire & Falcous, 2011; Ryba, Haapanen, Mosek, & Ng, 2012; Schinke, Yukelson, Bartolacci, Battochio, & Johnstone, 2011; Stambulova & Ryba, 2013). In this paper, I extend Schlossberg’s (1981) ideas about lifespan adaptation to transition in human development to propose an understanding of cultural transition as a process of conceptual transformation of meanings and reconstruction of subjectivity. Therefore, to begin to understand the role of culture in adaptive processes, I studied cultural adaptation as a process of subjectification of space and time occurring at the level of everyday practices. Rejecting the linear psychological models that claim that all immigrants undergo a universal psychological process of acculturation and adaptation (e.g., Berry’s (1980) acculturation model), I argue for an approach that considers the lived experiences of individual athletes within a multiplicity of their cultural identities/identifications, simultaneous embeddedness in various transnational and local networks and practices, and multiple sites of belonging. To this end, I discuss the concept of acute cultural adaptation (ACA), which considers psychological adaptation to a cultural transition as a negotiated process. Rather than framing adaptation as ‘achieved’ in terms of either psychological wellbeing or sociocultural proficiency, I propose an understanding of acute adaptation as negotiation between maintaining a psychological homeostasis and engagement in sociocultural everyday practices of the host site. Rereading a self-determination theory (SDT; Ryan & Deci 2000) through the lens of cultural epistemology, the proposed theorisation suggests that ACA is realised in everyday practices drawing on a range of material and symbolic cultural resources to satisfy basic psychological needs. I will use examples from my research to illustrate the conceptual arguments.

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