Every Medal has two Sides : Modernization, Dependency and the role of ‘the West’ in Kenyan athletics

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In this thesis the author wants to give an answer to the question ‘What’s the role of ‘the West’ on Kenyan athletics?’. In order to accomplish this, the author conducts his research at the level of Kenya’s national culture, the national athletic system, and the individual athlete. Three concepts, which he derives from theories, described in the theoretical framework, are applied to the different levels of research. The three concepts are the transition-concept, the growth-concept (based on modernization theory) and the empowerment-concept (based on dependency-theory). In the empirical part of the thesis these three concepts are tested in the case of Kenyan athletics. On the level of Kenya’s national culture it becomes clear that the introduction of athletics by the British colonizer led to the replacement of Kenya’s indigenous movement culture. The author concludes, though, that the athletic culture is not full-grown in Kenya. Dependency theorists criticise ‘Western imperialising powers’, trying to colonise the world with more and more adherents to participation in athletics. The disappointing result is that Kenyan athletics is only growing in long distance running. In relation to Kenya’s athletic culture some ‘empowerment’ strategies are described. On the level of the national athletic system in Kenya, the author concludes that a modern sports system has been established, but it’s malfunctioning. Although there has been a growth in athletic output through the years, it seems that Kenya’s sport system is not efficiently using the available talent. In relation Kenya’s athletic system, adherents of dependency theories outline threats like the athletes’ tendency to defect to other countries. On the level of the individual athlete transition to modernity is visible in training methods and in the internationalisation of the athlete’s lifestyle. Many examples of growth at the individual level can be seen in the economical benefits for successful athletes. Dependency theorists criticise the fact that only in Western countries money can be earned, which make Kenyan athletes highly dependent and vulnerable for abuse. In the conclusion of the thesis the author states that the processes affecting Kenya have a twofold character, and the perspective from which you look at those processes, determines whether they are problematic or not. If a process can be called problematic, one can discuss which deeper rooted origins there are to blame. A modernization theorist will point at an unfinished transition to modern structures, causing lack of growth and so on, while a dependency theorist will blame the dependent relations to which the country is tied up. The interweavement with the global sports system, in all its facets, is a situation which modernization and dependency theorists both have to face, and the right way to deal with it is probably no matter of ‘black or white’. To the author one point is very clear: the world of Kenyan athletics is heavily and irreversibly affected by ‘the West’ in its origin, its evolution and in its functioning today.
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