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Author(s): Verhoeven, Joram
Date: 2017
Date: 2016
Abstract: This is the first empirical study to explain the contested uses and meanings of ‘Yid’ in English football fan culture. A pertinent socio-political issue with important policy and legal implications, we explain the different uses of ‘Yid’, making central the cultural context in which it is used, together with the intent underpinning its usage. Focusing upon Kick It Out’s The Y-Word campaign film (which attempted to raise awareness of antisemitism in football by advocating a ‘zero tolerance’ policy approach to ‘Yid’), the complex relationship of Tottenham Hotspur with Judaism is unpacked. The origins of this complexity stem from Tottenham traditionally attracting Jewish fans due to nearby Jewish communities. As a consequence, Tottenham is perceived as a ‘Jewish’ club and their fans have suffered antisemitic abuse from opposing supporters who have disparagingly referred to them as ‘Yids’. In response, Tottenham fans have, since the 1970s, appropriated and embraced the term by identifying as the ‘Yid Army’. Critical analysis of fan forum discourse suggests that many Tottenham fans thought The Y-Word film failed to sufficiently understand or demarcate between the multiple meanings and intentions associated with use of ‘Yid’ as both an ethnic epithet and term of endearment. We call for an appreciation of the nature of language that acknowledges the fluidity and temporality of linguistic reclamation and ‘ownership’ in future policies to combat antisemitism.