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Durham University

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,

Co-Investigator: Dr Lynda Boothroyd, Department of Psychology,

IAS Fellows


Reading Group

Reading and discussion group on Gender and Masculinities with project fellows and PIs. Commencing from Thursday 11 October and each Thursday until Thursday 29 November, 11.00-12.30pm, in the Department of History, Room 111.

This is open to Durham academic staff and PGRs by invitation upon expression of interest.
Contact Professor Kay Schiller or Dr Lynda Boothroyd.

  • Thursday 11 October 2018 - Evolutionary approaches to male-male competition

  • Thursday 18 October 2018 - Historians’ perspectives on gender and masculinities

  • Thursday 25 October 2018 - Judith Butler’s ‘performativity’

  • Thursday 1 November 2018 - Biosocial understandings of gender

  • Thursday 8 November 2018 - Anthropologists on sport, gender and sexuality

  • Thursday 15 November 2018 - Martial arts, the body and gender

  • Thursday 22 November 2018 - Sport spaces

  • Thursday 29 November 2018 - Physical body ideals – impacts of viewing body types on attitudes to muscularity

Book Launch

With Professor David Scott (Trinity College Dublin) reading from his work of fiction Cut Up on Copacabana

Wednesday 7 November 2018 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study

International Interdisciplinary workshop

International interdisciplinary workshop ‘Masculinities in Martial Sports: East, West and Global South’. This is open to Durham academic staff and PGRs by invitation upon expression of interest to Professor Kay Schiller ( or Dr Lynda Boothroyd (

External participants include:

  • Dr Oleg Benesh (History, University of York);
  • Professor Paul Bowman (Cultural Studies, Cardiff University);
  • Professor Eric Brunner (Epidemiology, University College London);
  • Dr Alex Channon (Sport Science, University of Brighton);
  • Dr Catharine Cross (Psychology, University of St Andrews);
  • Dr Sara Delamont (Anthropology, Cardiff University);
  • Krisha Jukping (Anthropology, Bangkok);
  • Dr Max Kandhola (Cultural Studies, Nottingham Trent University);
  • Dr Craig Owen (Sport Science, St Mary’s University);
  • Tracey Thornborrow (Psychology, University of Lincoln).

Thursday 6 December 2018 - 9:00am to 5:00pm, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study

Roundtable Discussion

UKRC grant application meeting. Open to Durham staff by invitation upon expression of interest. For additional information please contact Professor Kay Schiller ( or Dr Lynda Boothroyd (

Friday 7 December 2018 - 10:00am to 12:00pm, Birley Room, Hatfield College