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(Mis)-understanding Nation and Identity: Re-imagining Sport in the Future of African Development

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Athletics, its obsession and allure for economic empowerment (marathons, World Championships, Golden League track events) through skill and will, unlike any other sport in Kenya, has generated contestations in the emergence of national identity. Thus the crisis in the body Athletics Kenya (AK), the Ministry for Gender, Sports and Culture and among individual athletes in Kenya today is symbolic of the crisis of individuality, nationhood and identity in African development. Since the ‘defection’ of Wilson Kipketer in 1998, Kenyan athletes have negotiated and have ‘run’ for citizenship in the Middle East, Europe and the United States. At stake is whether athletes, athletics, sports policy and the governing bodies are witnessing an evolution or devolution in autonomy especially when citizenship changes necessitate identity changes as is the case of the Qatar/Bahrain ‘defecting’ athletes. The paper presents the case for this issue, while situating the practise of athletes ‘defecting’ within the global flows of movement and questions of identity.


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