Players and Pawns: How Chess Builds Community and Culture

University of Chicago Press
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A chess match seems as solitary an endeavor as there is in sports: two minds, on their own, in fierce opposition. In contrast, Gary Alan Fine argues that chess is a social duet: two players in silent dialogue who always take each other into account in their play. Surrounding that one-on-one contest is a community life that can be nearly as dramatic and intense as the across-the-board confrontation.

Fine has spent years immersed in the communities of amateur and professional chess players, and with Players and Pawns he takes readers deep inside them, revealing a complex, brilliant, feisty world of commitment and conflict. Opening with a close look at a typical tournament in Atlantic City, Fine carries us from planning and setup through the climactic final day’s match-ups between the weekend’s top players, introducing us along the way to countless players and their relationships to the game. At tournaments like that one, as well as in locales as diverse as collegiate matches and community chess clubs, players find themselves part of what Fine terms a “soft community,” an open, welcoming space built on their shared commitment to the game. Within that community, chess players find both support and challenges, all amid a shared interest in and love of the long-standing traditions of the game, traditions that help chess players build a communal identity.

Full of idiosyncratic characters and dramatic gameplay, Players and Pawns is a celebration of the ever-fascinating world of serious chess.
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About the author

Gary Alan Fine is professor of sociology at Northwestern University and the author of numerous books.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Aug 6, 2015
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780226265032
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Language
English
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Genres
Games & Activities / Chess
Social Science / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Gary Alan Fine
If all politics is local, then so is almost everything else, argues sociologist Gary Alan Fine. We organize our lives by relying on those closest to us—family members, friends, work colleagues, team mates, and other intimates—to create meaning and order. In this thoughtful and wide-ranging book, Fine argues that the basic building blocks of society itself are forged within the boundaries of such small groups, the "tiny publics" necessary for a robust, functioning social order at all levels. Action, meaning, authority, inequality, organization, and institutions all have their roots in small groups. Yet for the past twenty-five years social scientists have tended to ignore the power of groups in favor of an emphasis on organizations, societies, or individuals. Based on over thirty-five years of Fine's own ethnographic research across an array of small groups, Tiny Publics presents a compelling new theory of the pivotal role of small groups in organizing social life.

No social system can thrive without flourishing small groups. They provide havens in an impersonal world, where faceless organizations become humanized. Taking examples from such diverse worlds as Little League baseball teams, restaurant workers, high school debate teams, weather forecasters, and political volunteers, Fine demonstrates how each group has its own unique culture, or idioculture—the system of knowledge, beliefs, behavior, and customs that define and hold a group together. With their dense network of relationships, groups serve as important sources of social and cultural capital for their members. The apparently innocuous jokes, rituals, and nicknames prevalent within Little League baseball teams help establish how teams function internally and how they compete with other teams. Small groups also provide a platform for their members to engage in broader social discourse and a supportive environment to begin effecting change in larger institutions. In his studies of mushroom collectors and high school debate teams, Fine demonstrates the importance of stories that group members tell each other about their successes and frustrations in fostering a strong sense of social cohesion. And Fine shows how the personal commitment political volunteers bring to their efforts is reinforced by the close-knit nature of their work, which in turn has the power to change larger groups and institutions. In this way, the actions and debates begun in small groups can eventually radiate outward to affect every level of society.

Fine convincingly demonstrates how small groups provide fertile ground for the seeds of civic engagement. Outcomes often attributed to large-scale social forces originate within such small-scale domains. Employing rich insights from both sociology and social psychology, as well as vivid examples from a revealing array of real-work groups, Tiny Publics provides a compelling examination of the importance of small groups and of the rich vitality they bring to social life.

A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust

Gary Alan Fine
If all politics is local, then so is almost everything else, argues sociologist Gary Alan Fine. We organize our lives by relying on those closest to us—family members, friends, work colleagues, team mates, and other intimates—to create meaning and order. In this thoughtful and wide-ranging book, Fine argues that the basic building blocks of society itself are forged within the boundaries of such small groups, the "tiny publics" necessary for a robust, functioning social order at all levels. Action, meaning, authority, inequality, organization, and institutions all have their roots in small groups. Yet for the past twenty-five years social scientists have tended to ignore the power of groups in favor of an emphasis on organizations, societies, or individuals. Based on over thirty-five years of Fine's own ethnographic research across an array of small groups, Tiny Publics presents a compelling new theory of the pivotal role of small groups in organizing social life.

No social system can thrive without flourishing small groups. They provide havens in an impersonal world, where faceless organizations become humanized. Taking examples from such diverse worlds as Little League baseball teams, restaurant workers, high school debate teams, weather forecasters, and political volunteers, Fine demonstrates how each group has its own unique culture, or idioculture—the system of knowledge, beliefs, behavior, and customs that define and hold a group together. With their dense network of relationships, groups serve as important sources of social and cultural capital for their members. The apparently innocuous jokes, rituals, and nicknames prevalent within Little League baseball teams help establish how teams function internally and how they compete with other teams. Small groups also provide a platform for their members to engage in broader social discourse and a supportive environment to begin effecting change in larger institutions. In his studies of mushroom collectors and high school debate teams, Fine demonstrates the importance of stories that group members tell each other about their successes and frustrations in fostering a strong sense of social cohesion. And Fine shows how the personal commitment political volunteers bring to their efforts is reinforced by the close-knit nature of their work, which in turn has the power to change larger groups and institutions. In this way, the actions and debates begun in small groups can eventually radiate outward to affect every level of society.

Fine convincingly demonstrates how small groups provide fertile ground for the seeds of civic engagement. Outcomes often attributed to large-scale social forces originate within such small-scale domains. Employing rich insights from both sociology and social psychology, as well as vivid examples from a revealing array of real-work groups, Tiny Publics provides a compelling examination of the importance of small groups and of the rich vitality they bring to social life.

A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust

Gary Alan Fine
Far from mere idle tales, rumors are a valuable window into our anxieties and fears. Rumors let us talk as a community about some very inflammatory issues--issues that may be embarrassing or disturbing to discuss-allowing us to act as if we are talking about real events, not personal beliefs. We can air our hidden fears and desires without claiming these attitudes as our own. In The Global Grapevine, two leading authorities on rumor, folklore, and urban legend--Gary Alan Fine and Bill Ellis--shed light on what contemporary rumors can tell us about the fears and pressures of globalization. In particular, they examine four major themes that emerge over and over again: rumors about terrorism, about immigration, about international trade, and about tourism. The authors analyze how various rumors underscore American reactions to perceived global threats, show how we interpret our changing world, and highlight fears, fantasies, and cherished beliefs about our place in the world. Along the way the book examines a wide variety of rumors-that the Israelis were behind 9-11, the President knew of the attack in advance, tourists wake up in foreign countries with their kidneys stolen, foreign workers urinate in vats of beer destined to be shipped to America. These rumors, the authors argue, reflect our anxieties and fears about contact with foreign cultures-whether we believe foreign competition to be poisoning the domestic economy or that foreign immigration to be eroding American values. Rumors are the visible tip of a vast iceberg of hidden anxieties. Illuminating the most widely circulated rumors in America in recent years, The Global Grapevine offers an invaluable portrait of what these tales reveal about contemporary society.
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