“Playing on the back foot”: The Pakistani Male Diaspora and Cricket in Berlin
Aseela Shamim Haque
Freie Universität Berlin, DE
Aseela Shamim Haque is a doctoral fellow at the Department of Human Geography at Freie Universität Berlin. She received an MA in Global Studies from Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and this article is part of her Master’s thesis on cricket as postcolonial cultural practice in Berlin. Her current research focuses on the politics of infrastructure and urban public space. She considers the social and political materialities of flyovers in her hometown Karachi and how spaces underneath them can be significant and contested resources in the lives of people bypassed by the structures. In her work, she focuses on issues of development, ethnicity, gender, leisure, subaltern appropriation, and resistance in urban public space.
Cricket, not yet a widely recognised sport in Germany, has been growing due to increasing numbers of immigrants from South Asia, many of whom are refugees. Despite the sharp rise in the number of registered teams playing in the country, very little is known about the sporting practices that are in many ways continuations of traditions, social bonds, and aspirations brought over from home countries. Although the configurations of cricket and South Asian immigrant communities have been widely researched in the UK and to a lesser extent in Norway, the German context has not received much attention. Through interviews and ethnographic fieldwork in Berlin, this article addresses that gap by underscoring how the Pakistani male diaspora emerges through cricket. It illustrates the experience of migrancy as shared by Pakistani men in Berlin in the context of rising racism and Islamophobia. As such, it reveals how cricket shapes ideas of identity, community, and resistance against marginalisation. In doing so, it emphasises how cricket serves as an important avenue for Pakistani immigrants to negotiate their place in German society, form community bonds, express their cultural identities in resistance to racialising norms, and maintain continuities to home.