Grant Farred

The Burden of Over-Representation

Race, Sport, and Philosophy

Temple University Press 2018

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in African StudiesNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SportsNew Books Network November 28, 2018 Keith Rathbone

Today we are joined by Grant Farred, Professor of Africana Studies and English at Cornell University.  Farred is the author of The Burden of...

Today we are joined by Grant Farred, Professor of Africana Studies and English at Cornell University.  Farred is the author of The Burden of Over-Representation: Race, Sport, and Philosophy (Temple University Press, 2018), which explores three sporting ‘events’: an uncharacteristic outburst from Jackie Robinson’s at a spring training game in New Orleans, Francois Pienaar and Nelson Mandela’s celebration after the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and the ethereal presence of Derrida in the stands of the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa.  He concentrates on these three happenings in order to raise questions about (over)representation in sports, the event, reconciliation and conciliation, the curse of service, the interplay between love and suffering, and coloniality and post-coloniality.

In The Burden of Over-Representation, Farred re-interprets these moments using the work of philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, and most consistently Jacques Derrida.  He also interweaves his analysis with larger discussions of literary theory, Hamlet, Judith Butler, Marx, and the Bible.  His novel approach offers new avenues to approach physical culture – sport enables him to actualize Derridian critiques in new ways. “To think sport philosophically.”

Instead of a passive and suffering Robinson, Farred sees a man cursed by his call to service, in part complicit in his own objectification, and in one moment exposed through a split second of Fanoninan profanity.  Pienaar’s negation of Mandela’s congratulations (“No, thank you, Mr. President”), returned the divisive history of apartheid into a moment of national unity.  Pienaar’s power in the face of the powerless President, his self-immolation in his moment of greatest triumph, displayed the limits of Mandela’s policy of reconciliation in a nation still riven by economic, political, and social inequity.  Farred “sees” Derrida, or perhaps only his ghostly echo, at the World Cup in South Africa.  Thinking through the spectral allows Farred to not only reframe the pied-noir philosopher as African thinker, but also show the spectrality of the state, and explain the presence of seventeen Frenchmen of Algerian descent on the Algerian team.

The Burden of Over-Representation – as rich in philosophical insights as it is in humor – will be of interest to scholars fascinated by the connection between sports and philosophy, critical theory, race, and colonialism/post-colonialism.


Keith Rathbone is a lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.  He researches twentieth century French social and cultural history. His manuscript, entitled A Nation in Play: Physical Culture, the State, and Society during France’s Dark Years, 1932-1948, examines physical education and sports in order to better understand civic life under the dual authoritarian systems of the German Occupation and the Vichy Regime.  If you have a title to suggest for this podcast, please contact him at [email protected]

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