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Title:A Structural Analysis of Navajo Basketball
Author(s):Allison, Maria Teresa
Department / Program:Physical Education
Discipline:Physical Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Anthropology, Cultural
Abstract:The purpose of this study was to identify, describe, and analyze, utilizing a structuralist methodology, the nature of the Navajo Indian game system. Specifically, the purpose of the study was twofold: (1) to identify and describe the form of basketball and its content as played by Navajo student athletes, and (2) attempt to identify basic underlying principles of Navajo culture which helped influence the nature of that game content.
Utilizing basic field research techniques, the investigator described the game content of both free-play and interscholastic basketball games played by both male and female athletes. Of a four school data base, two schools (one predominantly Navajo and the other predominantly Anglo) were analyzed in careful detail. Each of the schools either bordered or were located on the Navajo Indian Reservation.
Incorporating the Simmelian (1971) distinction between Form and Content, it was assumed that although the form of the game of basketball had been borrowed by the Navajo people from the Anglo culture, the actual content of the game would reflect the principles embedded in the Navajo social system.
The data indicated that the game form could be divided into two dimensions--the behavioral and the dispositional dimensions. The behavioral dimension consisted of game skills, strategies, rules, and equipment. The dispositional dimension consisted of the orientations which players held toward the game. These dispositions were game-related and resulted from the zero-sum structure of the game. Three dispositional elements suggested themselves as important orientations which players held toward the game: the degree of competitiveness, the nature of reward, and the nature of the opponent.
In the behavioral dimension it was found that the Navajo free-play game content was quite distinct from that of the Anglo free-play contest. Skills, strategies, and rules differed to quite a degree. As the game became increasingly formalized, the content of the Navajo and Anglo game became more similar. However, some differences still remained quite distinct. In the dispositional dimension, the game content of the Navajo and Anglo were quite different. The Navajo orientation towards competitiveness, the nature of the opponent, and the nature of reward remained quite distinct from the Anglo system.
A structural analysis of the data indicated that a major underlying principle which helped determine the nature of the Navajo game content was that of the relationship between the individual and the group. Specifically, the Navajo society places and strong emphasis on maintaining group solidarity and harmony; the individual has a responsibility to maintain that harmony in his/her everday experiences. The individualistic, competitive ethos of the Anglo mainstream was not fostered in Navajo society. This stress on group solidarity revealed itself in many aspects of the Navajo game content. In essence, this principle helped determine the actual nature of the Navajo game content which was expressed. In addition, when Navajo athletes violated this principle, various social sanctions were enacted by the community. Specifically, two cases of witchcraft were reported.
Finally, it was suggested that if a culture, such as the Navajo, could adopt a cultural object such as basketball and redefine its nature, then current concepts of assimilation and acculturation must be reexamined. Frequently, it is assumed that sport acts as a vehicle to help integrate and assimilate ethnic group members into mainstream society. These data indicate that such a thesis oversimplifies the complexities of cultural exchange. Rather, it appears as though a cultural group might adopt aspects of another culture and redefine those aspects to best fit its own sociocultural milieu.
Issue Date:1980
Description:215 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1980.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8108435
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-14
Date Deposited:1980

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