Hit and move: boxing and belonging in Accra, Ghana
Hopkinson, Leo George Hartnoll
This thesis builds on 19 months of ethnographic fieldwork with the boxing community of Accra, Ghana. Having trained and competed alongside boxers in Ga Mashie, the area of central Accra strongly associated with the sport, I foreground an embodied understanding of the sport’s sociality and of boxers’ engagements with a global sporting industry. The thesis is split into two parts: Part one examines the process of subject making through the mundane and quotidian practices of the sport – in training, during a bout and in boxers lives outside the gym and the ring. I ask how boxers’ sensory experience is morally encoded, and consider what ethical life looks likes when violence is a necessary part of everyday life. Chapters one and two rethink care through pain; asking how painful interactions become moments of shared experience and affirmation, rather than moments of isolation and objectification. I argue that an ethic of care and an ethical orientation towards others emerge as primary concerns in boxers’ lives. I theorise violence as neither necessarily affirming subjectivity nor objectifying, but as socially constructed to either affirm or objectify. Violence is thus inherently ambivalent and social rather than normatively objectifying, and practices of care responds to this ambivalence. Part two concerns the boxing community’s engagements with macro-imaginaries including a global sporting industry, the Ghanaian state, and the nation. I explore how embodied forms of movement and gendered understandings of self address the pervasive power dynamics which shape the boxing community’s lives. Movement across the world to fight, alongside specific forms of movement through and around central Accra, articulate a sense of belonging between the boxing community and Ga Mashie which complicates contemporary understandings of ethnicity in Ghana. By understanding corporeal movement as creative and politically engaged I offer new perspectives on life in a world of myriad forms of connection, and concomitantly of emergent dynamics of inclusion and exclusion.