In A Nation of Family and Friends, sociologist Aarti Ratna examines the complex and dynamic relationships between South Asian women and sporting and leisure cultures. Mining autobiographical insights (as a South Asian scholar living in the UK) she links the chapters of this innovative book using the sociological concepts of family and friends, particularly as they relate to an analysis of wider debates about the complexities of race, gender, and the nation. Ratna underscores the importance of studying informal spaces of sport and leisure as friendly, familial, sociable, and political spaces. She simultaneously highlights the role of earlier sociological research in disseminating myths about South Asian women as too physically weak to play competitive sports; culturally passive victims of South Asian cultures and religions; and as sexually exotic women requiring saving through colonial and imperial projects led by white men and women.
Ratna also examines two key cultural objects - the popular films "Bend it Like Beckham" and “Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal” - to examine in detail the gendered representation of South Asian soccer players’ engagement in amateur and elite levels of the sport. She critiques studies of women’s football fandom and sport that fail to acknowledge social differences relating to race, class, age, disability, and sexuality. By linking the social forces (across time and space) that differentially affect their sporting choices and leisure lifestyles, Ratna portrays the women of the South Asian diaspora as active agents in the shaping of their life courses and as skilled navigators of the complexities affecting their own identities. Ultimately Ratna examines the intersections of class, caste, age, generation, gender, and sexuality, to provide a rich and critical exploration of British Asian women's sport and leisure choices, pleasures, and lived realities.