Rah Rah Ritual: Emotional Energy, Symbolic Salience, and Collective Identity in High School Athletics

Master's Thesis


This is a grounded theory study attempting to answer the question of why high school sports are appealing to individuals without direct personal connections to contesting teams, incorporating observations from 16 high school basketball games that took place at 7 different gyms in Indiana over the course of the 2018-19 season. Engagement in high school basketball creates emotional energy as enumerated by Randall Collins, which is then invested into symbols akin to Durkheim’s totems. High school athletics attains a lasting appeal insofar as it associates itself with other community symbols in the context of a high-fusion identity (a la Jeffrey Alexander), thus creating many minor opportunities for engagement with symbols and reinvestment of emotional energy both within and outside the sporting context. The necessary frequency of these opportunities varies inversely to the emotional intensity of the major ritual investment event, such as a basketball game. The frequency of emotional investment and its relationship to fused identity could shed light on various forms of collective identity and shared ritual participation.


Attribute NameValues
Author Isaac Kimmel
Contributor Kraig Beyerlein, Committee Member
Contributor Erika M. Summers Effler, Research Director
Contributor David Sikkink, Committee Member
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name Master of Arts
Banner Code
  • MA-SOC

Defense Date
  • 2019-07-01

Submission Date 2019-07-08
Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units
Catalog Record


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