Johnathan Thurston, Indigeneity and technologies of masculinity in Australian sporting celebrity culture

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter analyses the mediation of Australian rugby league player Johnathan Thurston as embodying a nexus of masculine tropes of sporting achievement, the attention economies of media sport in Australia, and the body work of the celebrification of Indigenous athletes. My examination of Thurston’s sporting celebrity reveals how Indigenous subjectivities can be rendered commensurable with a shared Australian national identification in sport but also how the attention economy afforded to athletes like Thurston provides them with opportunities to represent ‘ordinariness’. In embodying sport discourses of egalitarianism and the persona of a hard-working, humble ‘bloke’, Thurston – who has Gunggari heritage (Gorman 2018) – represents the continuing presence of Indigenous peoples’ achievements as a visible and ‘normal’ part of the national imaginary. He has used this visibility to publicly condemn racism in rugby league and to promote causes important to Indigenous peoples. Thurston highlights how the commodification of masculinity through sport is a contradictory process that attempts to smooth over social inequalities by suturing working class labour and bodies to hegemonic projects of nationalism and heteronormativity. Precisely because this process requires male bodies and subjectivities from outside of hegemonic norms – to show how they can be recuperated into national and middle-classed subjectivities – Thurston’s Indigeneity and its mediation can facilitate modes of identification for marginalised audiences of sports media and in sport celebrity culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender and Australian celebrity culture
EditorsAnthea Taylor, Joanna McIntyre
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780429430442
ISBN (Print)9781138366220
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameGlobal gender


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