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The dialogical construction of “Ultras fan”

Authors: Claudia Della Torre; Co-authors: Gian Piero Turchi, Valentina Cecchi, Franco Mazzotti

University of Padova, Italy; General Psychology Department

Slides 1

This contribution presents a research concerning the construction of the “Ultras fan identity”. In general the interventions realized in Italy have the aim of preventing and contrasting violence in stadium. Nevertheless it is possible to observe that there isn’t a drop in the number of cases of violence, so it become necessary to make available new conceptual and operational tools, which can be efficacious in reference to the aims of the interventions.

We have made a research concerning the “Ultras case” in order to construct the basis for planning interventions adopting the same operational model as the research. The research moves by a precise theoretical and methodological reflection.

Slides 2

The reference is the narrativistic paradigm; and its main assumption is that reality is constructed in a discursive way, that is reality doesn’t exist on an ontological level, but it is constructed and continuously redefined by virtue of the linguistic and conceptual system used. In this sense it is possible to refer to “configurations of reality” which are generated by discursive processes.

According to the narrativistic paradigm also the “Ultras identity” is an “on going” configuration of reality, generated by the discursive ways used into a specific dialogical context.

In particular, the “theory of the dialogical identity” considers identity as constructed by the intersection of 3 different kinds of speeches, so it is possible – as you can see in the following picture - to represent the “Identity” like generated by the connection of the three vertexes of an equilateral pyramid:

Slides 3

the auto-attributions, are discursive productions like “I am, we are”; the ethero-attributions are like “you are, they are”, and the common matrix is represented by all the possible discursive productions that are available in a specific historical and cultural moment.

Within such theoretical reference, a person is not a physical entity, but terms as “person”, “subject”, personality”, “pathology” are speeches produced and coherent into a narrative way. In this sense, “Ultras” is a configuration of reality generated by all the “voices” telling about it and always changing by the 3 vertex just described. According to these assumptions, it become necessary to emphasize the discursive ways used to generate the “Ultras identity” in order to change this configuration.

Slides 4

In this case the object of the research can be founded in the discursive processes used to construct the Ultras identity, so the research has the aim to describe how “Ultras identity” is generated, through “how Ultras talk about themselves” and at the same time “how” external voices “talk about ultras”. The focus is not on the truth or the falsity of the sentences and the attention is not to find out “what’s behind these sentences” but, since the sentence is coherent with what it says, it is possible to consider the process through which reality is generated.

In order to do it, the MADIT methodology has been used: that is a methodology for textual analysis which uses statistical software, that allows the research to have informatic data and graphics describing the architecture of the texts and to recognize the argumentative links that make the text so peculiar. In other terms MADIT methodology (Methodology of Textual Processing Data Analysis, Turchi G.P. et al. 2005) helps the researcher in describing the discursive repertories that characterize the text; with “discursive repertory” according to the narrativistic paradigm we intend a limited modality of reality construction that creates or maintains a narrative coherence and that can comprehend different contents. So a discursive repertories is independent from contents.

For example if I say “I can’t go to school, I’m tired” or if I say “I’m stressed and nervous so I can’t stop smoking” we can notice that these two periods are different in the contents but both periods use the same modality to construct reality, that is the repertory of justification. In the first case I’m trying to justify my absence from school and in the second case I’m trying to justify myself because I can’t stop smoking.

In particular in this research we have used a software called Spad-T that uses statistical criteria in order to calculate words frequency, and the occurrences among more words. It can produce graphics composed by two axes where we can see if two or more words are associated with each other. Words are near each other in the graphic as much as they are in the text. So we can look at the graphic, consider statistical data provided by the software, so we can find group of words that are significantly associated and that can be considered as part of the same discursive repertory.

Slides 5

In order to describe the process of “Ultras identity” construction with reference to the 3 discursive vertex, we have analysed both normative texts, speeches provided by media and responses given to a questionnaire constructed ad hoc and administered to ultras people.

The analysis of normative texts has been chosen because they are powerful in generating reality accorded to norms because they define what is possible to consider legal or illegal, and so which configurations of reality need for regulation. The analysis of mass media has been chosen because of the importance of such voice for the ‘common thinking’ about the issue of violence into stadium, so it represent a main strategy for describing the common matrix vertex. At last, concerning the interviews, the group object of research is composed of:

106 Ultras (auto-attribution),

61 Sunday fans, 60 Common Wills, 50 professional soccer players, 50 Policemen (etero-attribution)

60 common persons (common matrix)

The following table present the discursive repertories defined into the auto-attributions

Slides 6

Concerning the vertex of auto-attribution (that is how ultras describe themselves), the dialogical identity “ultras” is constructed by discursive ways that define ultras as a “matter of fact and not modifiable” (es. repertory of ratifying reality and conditions) for examples by the definition of fix characteristics of an “ultras type”. These characteristics are defined as the univocal way to be considered ultras, and in this sense are described as not modifiable. Ultras describe themselves using personal theories about what being ultras means and define the scenery as the only one possible.

The auto-attributions also use the repertory of legitimation which provides validity and authenticity to the discourse and the repertory of justification by which ultras refer to the reasons of a situation or their behaviour: this aspect has the argumentative function of justifying the speeches and so it requires the maintenance of the “status quo” of the scenery.

The generated reality is laid down by procedures that define it unchangeable, since it is the only feasible ones and by the use of speeches that justify the present state. Such process produces an unchangeable reality that doesn’t imply the possibility to transform it.

The following table present the discursive repertories defined into the ethero-attributions

Slides 7

Concerning the vertex of ethero-attribution (that is how others describe ultras) the dialogical identity “ultras” is constructed by discursive ways that define a person or an event through a judgment (repertory of judgment) or like an unchangeable reality (repertory of ratifying reality), as we have seen concerning the auto-attributions.

Other repertories are those of explanation, illness and prescription: the configuration of reality “ultras” is generated by discursive ways that define being ultras as an indicator of illness, for eg the so called “pathological deviance”. These processes are focused on the research of the causes of deviance and on the definition of “what an ultras surely does because he is an ultras” (referring to the rep. of prescription as we can see in the slide).

The emerging configuration of reality implies the use of the common sense theory about being an ultras, that explains the ultras’ behaviour as a not normal and not moral one, and it has the pragmatic implication of maintaining the present state.

Therefore, the etero-attributions are also constructed by the use of the repertory of possibilities, that is a modality that describes different possible hypothesis or developments about reality and to use this modality leads to a opposite direction with respect to the other ones, because it lets opened possibilities for changing the present situation.

The following table present the discursive repertories defined in reference to the common matrix

Slides 8

As we have just seen about etero-attribution, also concerning the common matrix the ultras identity is generated by the repertories of explanation, roles characteristics, ratifying reality and prescription. As regards contents, an effective cause of the present situation is recognized and can be identified with the Ultras tendency to violence as well as with the Law enacted by Decree which, being extremely repressive, led Ultras to rebellion with all their anger, and therefore the reasoning is set into a type of speech that refers to theories which find cause-and-effect links among the events, justifying the statements.

The use of these repertories implies the construction of firm sceneries based on common sense statements, describing something that is considered “a problem” that must be solved. At the same time the repertory of polemic gives a contribute in maintaining the situation because it focus the discourse on themes that don’t introduce anything useful in order to change the present configuration.

At the same time it is also possible to highlight the use, by the Common Sense, of talking processes that include the “description of the facts as they happen”, without considering the introduction of worthy judgements. The use of the repertory of description wise up to possibilities for changing reality, because it considers descriptive elements which can be observed by all the actors in the context, and so these elements can be used in order to generate a common shared configuration of reality.

Slides 9

On the basis of these results, we can emphasize that the vertex of auto and etero-attribution are going to coincide, because ultras describe themselves alike others describe them. The pyramid, concerning the Theory of the Dialogic Identity, in this meaning has lost its three-dimensionality specifying the “standardized dialogic identity” as the manifestation of a typical repertory about being Ultra- used by everybody: “actors” and “audience”.

This aspect doesn’t allow to describe ultras into a different way but as “a person who behave into a violent and immoral way”. In this sense being ultras is a reality generated by discursive ways referring to the common sense, that considers what have been said as “true”.

On an other hand, the research underlines that the dialogical context also includes the resources that operators can use in order to change reality. We have seen that etero and auto-attribution use both the repertories of possibilities and description and this element implies the possibility of sharing the elements of the speech instead of ratifying “matter of fact”.

As regard the operational level, the interventions realized in Italy at this moment have the aim of preventing and contrasting manifestations of violence, starting from the individuation of causes related to the existence of such manifestations and suggesting sceneries of sanction, regulation and repression with the aim of acting on the causes and delete the ‘problem’.

In this case the theory used to intervene coincide with the common sense that search the causes of violence making available discursive elements that can be used to legitimate the behave –as concerns ultras auto-attribution- or to ratify it as a blameworthy manifestation of an individual inclination or a violent personality.

The agreement between common sense and theories used into this kind of intervention invalidates its efficacy as regard the aim of changing reality, because the theories used by operators implies elements that maintain the present configuration.

Therefore, we underline the necessity of an operational model that moves from scientific assumption and allows operators to change the discursive modalities used by all actors in the context. In this sense, we can consider that the assumptions presented into the present speeches represents a proposal of paradigmatic shift in comparison with the explicative theory about ‘violence’, through the cause and the effect detection. This shift allows operator to have a “third point of view”, that is a scientific point of view, about the situation.

So we propose the use of the dialogical model that starts from the assumptions of the narrativistic paradigm through which ultras are a configuration of reality and the discursive practices are the main object of study and intervention: by this way the researcher as well as the operator can keep “adherence” to the text, that is adherence to what is going to happen. This aspect allows these two roles to emphasize the available resources on the basis of the present configuration. So the main powerful aspects of adopting narrativistic paradigm and dialogic model is that they make available conceptual and operational tools in order to change the elements that make the present situation so peculiar instead of researching cause-and-effect-links or constructing personal theories about ultras.


In the section “DIALOGICAL MODEL”

- Epistemological foundation and methodological exactness regarding research in discursive science, symposium and slides files

In the section “SPORT PSYCHOLOGY”

- Doping Practice and sport: dialogical identities in comparison between different levels of sporty practices, paper and slides files

CONTACTS labsalute.psicologia@unipd.it

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