A couple of decades ago Orin Starn, an American-based cultural anthropologist, went to Peru to conduct a study of a poor Andean community. It was a classic of the genre.
But since then Starn has made another important discovery: sometimes it is even more interesting to flip the lens and look at tribes in modern American life instead. He recently published a fascinating book on Tiger Woods, looking at golf as a cultural symbol. And as a self-styled “sport anthropologist”, who now works as professor at Duke University, North Carolina, he has also pondered the thorny question of lacrosse.
It is easy to see why. This week Bill Cohan, a banker turned journalist who has previously written exposés on Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns, published an account of a 2006 scandal about rape allegations against Duke University’s male lacrosse team. And after reading his exhaustive, fascinating tale, The Price of Silence, the only thing that surprises me is that there are not more academics working in this nascent discipline of sports anthropology, given how much material there is to explore.