Masculinities in Martial Sports: West, East and Global South

Project summary

Masculinities in Martial Sports will investigate through an interdisciplinary, trans-national methodology ‘hard and masculine’ sports from different areas of the globe, and their relationship to the shaping of gender orders. Kushti (Indian wrestling), Japanese Aikido and Western boxing form the subject sports.

Masculinities are constantly constructed, contested and altered in a complex interplay between the legacies of the past, the demands of the present and the expectations for the future, with organized modern sports playing a significant role in this process. Seen historically, the invention of modern sports, including the ‘hard’ sports analysed here, can be interpreted as a significant social mechanism through which men responded to various crises surrounding masculinity from the 19th-century onwards. Anthropologically, the embodied aspect of sport makes it particularly powerful in shaping the forms of masculinities that are consumed and performed in societies.

The project will test and refine Connell’s (1987) theory of the gender order as a dynamic system of power relations, specifically her notion of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ from a historical and anthropological perspective. It will create a strong network of international scholars, and develop plans for a major grant application to explore historical and geographical variation in men and women’s experience of masculinity.

Term: Michaelmas


Project Investigators:

Principal Investigator: Professor Kay Schiller (History)
Co-Investigator: Dr Lynda Boothroyd (Psychology)

University of Melbourne

Tamara Kohn (BA UC Berkeley 1982, MA UPenn 1984, DPhil Oxford 1988) is Professor of Anthropology in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She has conducted extensive field research in the Scottish Hebrides (with incomers in a small island community), East Nepal (with villagers in a remote Tibeto-Burman village), the US (with martial artists, prisoners, and the funeral industry), and Japan (with martial artists and sonic environments).

“This experience was truly magnificent – it provided me with a once in a lifetime opportunity to think, and meet people, and write.”

Trinity College Dublin

David Scott is Emeritus Professor of French (Textual & Visual Studies) at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). As a semiologist, Professor Scott’s work over the last three decades has centred on aesthetics, poetics and the relationship between text and image across a wide range of cultural practices and has led to landmark books on poetry and the visual arts(1988;2009) surrealist painting (1992), the postage stamp (1995, 2002), travel writing (2004), the poster (2010), and boxing (2009, 2015).

“My semester stay at Durham has been one of the most, stimulating, productive and enjoyable experiences I have had in my long (40-year) academic career.”

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Peter H. Hansen is Professor of History and Director of International and Global Studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts. His research and teaching explore comparative dimensions of modernity, empire, sports and project-based learning, with a particular focus on the entangled histories of mountaineering and modernity.

“The IAS Fellowship has had a transformative impact on my thinking and research.”