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Institute of Advanced Study

Masculinities in Martial Sports: West, East and Global South


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

Principal Investigator: Professor Kay Schiller, Department of History,

Theme(s): Masculinities and Sport

IAS Fellows