The boxer’s point of view: an ethnography of cultural production and athletic development among amateur and professional boxers in England
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AbstractSince the late nineteenth century boxing in England has been socially organised into two ideologically distinctive versions - amateur and professional boxing – that to this day are practiced in spatially segregated social universes. Nonetheless, both amateur and professional boxing-practitioners understandings and lived experiences in and through boxing are necessarily grounded in the wider social and cultural contexts through which they interpret meaning and construct worldviews and identity. Thus despite the institutional, ideological and spatial boundaries demarcating either code, on a rather more subtle yet incredibly powerful cultural level, amateur and professional boxing are both symbolically and practically deeply intertwined. Over a five year period, I conducted ‘insider’ ethnographic research among distinct cohorts of amateur and professional boxers based in Luton and London to investigate the lived experiences and socially constructed worldviews, values and identities developed by practitioners immersed in either code. The overriding aim of this research was to critically evaluate the limits and possibilities of boxing-practitioners association with and development through ‘boxing’ henceforth. The findings of this ethnography reveal that it was common for the amateur and professional boxing-practitioners studied to cultivate empowering identities through intersubjective and socially validating instances of purposefulness, expressivity, creativity, fellowship and aspiration. These lived dimensions were grounded in sensuous, symbolic and emotional attachments respective to the social organization defining the social practice of either code of boxing. Equally, the research reveals that under the veneer of collective passion for and consequent fellowship experienced through boxing, an undercurrent yet ever-present sense of dubiety, tension and intra-personal conflict was in evidence among both the amateur and professional boxing-practitioners studied. It is suggested, therefore, that as a consequence of an array of both micro and macro post-industrial societal reconfigurations defining the structural principles of amateurism and professionalism in the practice of ‘boxing’, contemporary boxers are increasingly predisposed to developing athletic identities predisposed towards patterns of meaning production “…dominated by market-mediated consumer choice and the power of individualism” (Jarvie 2006 p. 327). Thus through complex, historically dynamic and seemingly paradoxical social processes of cultural (re)production and transformation - dialectically fusing individualistic aspirations geared towards self-interested gain, acts of group and subcultural fellowship and social resistance to measures of institutionalised control - it is argued that the role of boxing as an agent for humanistic personal and social development in the contemporary late-modern era of structural reconfiguration is progressively rendered impotent.
CitationStewart, A. (2008) 'The boxer’s point of view: an ethnography of cultural production and athletic development among amateur and professional boxers in England'. PhD thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Luton
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