The barefoot leagues : an oral (hi)story of football in the plantation towns of Kaua'i /

by Morimoto, Lauren Shizuyo.

Abstract (Summary)
Recent sport scholarship has expanded the literature on race and sport beyond African-American experiences to increasingly include those of Asian Americans and Latinos/Latinas. Nonetheless, studies on Japanese American sport have generally focused on Japanese American participation in baseball and internment camp recreation/ sporting practices. Though illuminating previously untold aspects of sport history, the aforementioned studies focus on an especially dramatic and painful moment in Japanese American history. Meanwhile examinations of Hawai’ian sport have looked at what might be labeled “native” activities like surfing and swimming without exploring sport within different immigrant groups. In contrast, this paper examines American football, a non-native mainland sport within the context of everyday plantation/cannery life in preand post-World War II Kaua’i. The Barefoot Leagues consisted of loosely affiliated teams from various towns on the island of Kaua’i. Participants played football in their bare feet: in part because they rarely wore shoes -- in part because as field and cannery workers, they could not afford athletic gear. The leagues drew players from a range of ages and ethnicities provided they could meet the weight limits of 115 to 135 pounds. While the league was officially open to all races, the lighter weight leagues did draw more Asian American, as opposed to ii Hawai’ian or Portuguese participants. Most of the teams arose from “company” or plantation towns -- i.e. towns where the sugar and pineapple plantation or cannery was the primary source of labor for the locals. The players were drawn from the working class, generally plantation or cannery employees, often those performing manual labor. In general, the plantation or cannery supported the teams formally and informally with the plantation/cannery camp residents acting as fundraisers and spectators. According to Kunio Nagoshi, a league participant in the mid-1940’s, the towns hoped to develop loyalty and esprit de corps. In addition, the town and “company” encouraged Barefoot League football to provide a form of recreation for the male laborers. While sifting through league documents, town records and newspaper articles illuminates the structure and schedule of “barefoot” football, the way football came to be played along with the meaning of football for spectators and players remains obscured. By interviewing twenty-five former barefoot football players, a story behind the official or written sources emerges. As Karen E. Fields notes in her article on oral history, “What One Cannot Remember Mistakenly,” she chooses not to call her grandmother’s memoir history, sociology or even an oral history in order to free herself from methodological constraints. Similarly, though employing the stock method of oral history -- the interview -- I prefer to present a story (rather than history) of football amongst laborers on Kaua’i. Along with illuminating how the residents of the plantation towns situated football within their collective identity, the interviews highlight how the players saw/understood the place of football in constructing individual, town and ethnic identities. iii
Bibliographical Information:


School:The Ohio State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:sports japanese americans football hawaii


Date of Publication:

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