The reckoning occasioned by the conclusion of the World Cup is in one sense simply the continuation of a reckoning that began in 2004, when it was announced that
Kamilla Swart has played a leadership role in the 2010 Research Agenda, a data-finding initiative concerned with measuring the immediate economic impact of the event and reflecting upon the potential of its long-term legacy. Concrete conclusions, she allowed, are at this early stage difficult to assert. FIFA's financial maneuverings are notoriously cryptic. The South African government has likewise been coy about the affinity or not between its own forecasts and after-the-event assessments; to cite just one example, the “Bid Document” that made the case for
If the lead-up to the event within South Africa was characterized by a profound state of anxiety—coupled, of course, with feverish anticipation—the prevailing mood of the aftermath, Eric suggested, is an ambivalent introspection: are we still at the stage of the not-yet, or have we arrived? Equivocation on this point should not be equated with a crisis of self-confidence or with a retreat to fatalism. Indeed, the 'not-yet' can be inhabited as a moment of perpetual becoming, a space wherein a critical disposition toward the present stands beside and speaks in rhythm with utopian intonations of what might come. If we are, in good faith, to pronounce the World Cup a 'success', it will be because the event broadened our understanding of the possible, at the same time it renewed our commitment to the labor demanded by that possibility.
In the ensuing conversation, Achille Mbembe spoke of the new, more mutable articulations of public and private space, and the new, more inventive languages of collective self-narration, that acquired embryonic form during the event. The political consequence of these tentative expressions of newness might not reveal itself for some time, and whatever causal relation we eventually identify—between the experience of the event and social evolution in its aftermath—will inevitably be speculative.
What happened inside the stadia, on the official fields of play, might be the most enduring source of inspiration, because it is the one we can most readily relive. On 20 June I visited
More writing on the world cup by Eli Jelly-Schapiro is available at: http://www.socialtextjournal.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=6&id=221.