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    Fighting for & against race: racialization, racism & kickboxing in East London

    Singh, Amit (2022) Fighting for & against race: racialization, racism & kickboxing in East London. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This thesis uses ethnography to explore how fighters at Origins Combat Gym, a Polish owned Muay Thai/Kickboxing gym in East London, seek to reject pre-established identity markers to construct one another as the same; as fighters, a category that supersedes ascriptive traits. I foreground three factors that facilitate this. Firstly, Origins Combat Gym is dominated by a large Polish and Black constituency, as White-British fighters are notable by their absence. Secondly, the nature of the sport requires fighters to suffer alongside one another amidst gruelling training sessions, which feeds into a sense of solidarity. Thirdly, Origins Combat Gym is ostensibly an egalitarian space insofar as all fighters are trained in the same way, at the same time, whilst wearing the gym’s kit. These factors foster the production of what I term “carnal convivial connections” and create a social context whereby people construct a project of equality around becoming a fighter, a social category that allows for new possibilities. However, as my field-site exists within a broader (post)colonial social world, I argue that these processes are inevitably constrained. The new identity - “fighter” - is subject to rupture through the salience of taken-for-granted thinking about race, gender and sexuality, which can manifest in acts of “interpellation” that draw my respondents out of the category of fighter and back into longer-standing durable categories. I draw upon Butler’s theory of performativity and Bourdieu’s notion of habitus to examine these processes. I argue that it is the performativity of race that does not equate to voluntaristic “freeplay” (Butler 1993), and the pull of the racial habitus, that is “durable, but not eternal!” (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992) that prevents my interlocutors effectively disavowing race as a discursive category. Nonetheless, my interlocutors’ attempts to reject the logic of ethnic absolutism through forging complex localised solidarities offers hope at a time when identities remain increasingly fraught, contested and essentialised.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 19 May 2022 13:56
    Last Modified: 08 Jan 2024 17:49


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