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The Men’s Football World Cup through the everyday: geopolitics, soft power, and the invisible domestic forgotten in Russia

Authors: Sven Daniel Wolfe*, University of Lausanne
Topics: Urban Geography, Russia, Political Geography
Keywords: Urban geopolitics, micropolitics, urban development, mega-events, Russia
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Beyond sport, mega-events like the World Cup have been understood as lenses through which to analyze issues as diverse as neoliberalized leisure (Horne and Whannel 2016; Roche 2002), urban development (Müller and Gaffney 2018), protest and globalization (Dart and Wagg 2016), and geopolitics (Koch 2017) or as a strategy of soft power (Grix 2014). This view is often framed through foreign policy, on global scales. Yet mega-events are hosted not by nations but in cities, and the impacts of these geopolitical soft power strategies on the residents of host cities remains understudied and relatively invisible.

Starting with the 2018 Men’s Football World Cup in Russia, this paper highlights how these global events are predicated on an everyday geopolitics. Inspired by the theoretical vocabulary found in urban geopolitics, I endeavor to trace the “telescoping connections between transnational geopolitical transformations and the very local acts of violence against urban sites” (Graham 2004, 191). From this standpoint, I explore the micropolitics (Guattari 2009) of mega-event-driven urban development projects during the preparations for the World Cup in Volgograd, Russia.

Combining an affective sensitivity (Massumi 2002) with a valorization of the politics of minor things (Lancione 2017), I explore how mega-event-related changes in the built environment open up spaces for encountering different manifestations of the (geo)politics at stake. More than the contradictions of inviting global audiences to Russia dur increased international tensions, I reveal how the preparations for the World Cup further marginalized an already marginalized host population – and how those people themselves reacted.

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