Athletes, their bodies, and their sport performances validate and vivify the nation by lending physical form to an imagined community. For bodies to express and enact so consistently as to constitute a coherent nation, they must be assembled, defined, and motivated within a complex arrangement of culture, civil society, and institutions. Aihwa Ong called this arranging of people with national objectives cultural citizenship. In this article, I write autoethnographic vignettes of my experiences as a migrant and rugby player from Aotearoa/New Zealand playing in the U.S. South, which I use to demonstrate and add to Ong’s theories on embodiment, cultural citizenship, and the nation. I argue that a nation is an unlikely achievement dependent on its members; members, such as athletes, enact their nation in by augmenting its affects, most notably by making the nation capable of having a physical encounter. I recommend qualitative scholars and sport sociologists study instances where athletes and other members fail to embody the nation, because this is where scholars can best observe and study the contingency of nations.
- cultural citizenship