Cultures of Combat’: Qualitative Studies of Martial Arts, Fighting Systems and Combat Sports

Convenors: David Brown (Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK), George Jennings (Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK) & Lorenzo Pedrini (University of Milano-Bicocca)

Within and between the disciplines of anthropology, cultural studies, history, human geography, pedagogy, sociology and the emerging field of martial arts studies, there exist a great variety of research methods used to address themes of the body, education, gender, identity, nationalism, sexuality and technology – to name a few topics. Qualitative strategies including auto/ethnography, documental analysis, ethnography, interviewing, media analysis, netnography (online ethnography) and (auto)phenomenology continue to be tested, developed and combined through innovative projects from researchers from various continents and academic backgrounds.

The theme of culture in its many guises is a unifying factor in many of these academic fields, and ‘cultures of combat’ such as hand-to-hand combat training, traditionalist martial arts and vernacular self-defence systems provide a basis for the study of various aspects of culture more generally. Scholars are adding to knowledge on the fighting systems, martial arts, combat sports, self-defence systems and a number of overall physical cultures that we term for the purposes of this inclusive collection, ‘cultures of combat.’ At the same time, this body of knowledge is contributing to the methodological literature beyond the martial arts, such as the use of the senses, ‘habitus as topic and tool’ as Wacquant puts it, two-handed ethnography and surveys on fans across countries. It is with this burgeoning corpus of work in mind that we call researchers to share their findings, practices and insights from their investigations.

In an effort to explore the ways of researching these cultures of combat, manner of analysing them and possibilities of representing such research, we particularly welcome submissions relating to the following specific themes:

- (Sub)cultures

  • Tradition vs innovation;
  • Values;
  • Embodied knowledge;
  • Violence vs sociability;

- Pedagogies

  • Apprenticeship and mentoring;
  • Education and edutainment;
  • The socialization of senses;
  • Politics, biopolitics and power;

- Infrastructures

  • Objects and weaponry;
  • Space and place;
  • Technologies and mobile applications;
  • Doing research with technologies;

- Cultivations

  • Lifestyle and leisure;
  • Health and wellbeing;
  • Family and community;
  • Environment and ecology;


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