Date Published:Feb 1, 2005
This article explores the dynamics of cross–national cultural diffusion through the study of a case in which a symbolically powerful cultural practice, the traditionally English sport of cricket, successfully diffused to most but not all countries with close cultural ties to England. Neither network ties, nor national values, nor climatic conditions account for this disparity. Our explanation hinges instead on two key factors: first, the degree to which elites chose either to appropriate the game and deter others from participating or actively to promote it throughout the population for hegemonic purposes; and second, the degree to which the game was “popularized” by cultural entrepreneurs looking to get and keep spectators and athletes interested in the sport. Both outcomes relate to the nature of status hierarchies in these different societies, as well as the agency of elites and entrepreneurs in shaping the cultural valence of the game. The theoretical significance of this project is thus the observation that the diffusion of cultural practices can be promoted or discouraged by intermediaries with the power to shape the cultural meaning and institutional accessibility of such practices.