Dream Machine : an Ethnography of Football Migration between Ghana and Sweden

Abstract: This thesis examines football migration between Ghana and Sweden. Based on multi-sited, transnational, part-time ethnographic fieldwork that spanned 22 months between 2017 and 2019, it focuses on the everyday realities of Ghanaian football migrants throughout their labor migration trajectory. At the same time, the thesis contextualizes these experiences within the larger historical processes of neoliberalism, colonialism, and the transatlantic slave trade. The theoretical framework draws on literature concerning dreams and aspirations, time and migration, family structures, race, and the enduring impact of colonialism. The thesis sheds light on the historical connection between Ghanaian and Swedish football as a colonial project, a national project, and a global postcolonial phenomenon, emphasizing the political economy of football migration. By zooming in on dreams and the footballing body, it then examines footballers as neoliberal entrepreneurs of themselves as well as objects of the industry’s racialized dreams. Next, the thesis draws attention to the temporal aspects of football migration, including institutional borders, capitalist timelines, and the time of the footballing body. The thesis goes on to explore family structures, particularly fatherhood, in the migratory and footballing context, showing how these structures are interconnected with the business interests of the global football industry. It further demonstrates how race and racialization are present in the Swedish footballing context and finally looks at return migration, investigating how migrant footballers seek to repay economic and social debts. As performers on a commercialized global stage, the footballers embody the dreams of people all over the world. They are commodified and seen as investments for the future, both by people at home and by those working in the industry. Their success generates profit and shows that the dream of migration and the dream of football can come true. This thesis uses the metaphor of the dream machine to understand how dreams operate both globally and locally. It examines the linkages between maintenance of the footballing body, transactions of care, practices of social inclusion and racialized exclusion, and the functioning of the global capitalist football industry. Doing so, it emphasizes the meaningfulness of the migration trajectory for individual footballers and their networks, placing these relationships at the very heart of the beautiful game. 

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