Boxing, Bourdieu and Butler: repetitions of change

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



External departments

  • University of South Wales


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in Theatre and Performance
Early online date14 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2019
Publication type

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The authors of this paper engage in academic sparring. Sparring is a process, a training, and a dialogue. This paper brings into dialogue the boxing bodies and autoethnographic experiences of the authors alongside the theoretical work of Pierre Bourdieu and Judith Butler. By applying a feminist reading to Bourdieu’s concepts of capital and habitus, the authors explore how the repetitive nature of boxing training can promote change. The paper considers boxing training as a transcendental identity project where individual labour is invested in order to affect change in symbolic capital. The repetitive nature of training leads to a habitus split, or habitus clivé. This split causes the boxer to renegotiate concepts of self as they engage with their own and other socially qualified and gendered bodies. This split exposes the freedoms and limitations of identity work as the boxers develop new habitus with and through their bodies (hexis). The authors argue that a reading of the performance of boxing bodies demonstrates the complex relationship between change, freedom, and restriction. Boxing is a physical culture supported by pervasive, hegemonic narratives which focus on the demonstration and development of respect and discipline. This paper explores the extent to which the repetitive nature of boxing training can be considered transgressive or resistant.