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american studies

african american studies

Fighting for Recognition

Wandering

Identity, Masculinity, and the Act of Violence in Professional Wrestling

Philosophical Performances of Racial and Sexual Freedom

r . t yson smith

sarah jane cervenak

“Behind the hypermacho performance of pro wrestling, R. Tyson Smith

“The rigorous turns and supple overturnings in Wandering illuminate and

reveals a backstage where hard aggressive bodies are actually soft and

extend meditative resistance to the racial and sexual pathologization of

yielding, hypersensitive as lovers so that they don’t cripple each other.

the irregular, antiregulative, social, and aesthetic movement animating

It is more akin to ballet than battle, except that all the effort goes into

the history of black thought. Sarah Jane Cervenak’s devoted study of the

giving the opposite impression. This is one of the great ethnographies of

disruption of linearity, from David Walker to Gayl Jones, from Harriet Jacobs

the backstage of occupations, of athletes, of show business, of the bodily

to William Pope.L challenges and allows us to understand that the errand

self—and of social performance itself.”—RANDALL COLLINS , author of

of blackness is a wandering whose origin and end are dislocation, where

Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory

the new thing awaits.”—FRED MOTEN , author of B Jenkins

 FIGHTING

FOR 

RECOGNITION

IDENTITY, MASCULINITY, AND THE ACT OF VIOLENCE IN PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING

R. TYSON SMITH

In Fighting for Recognition, R. Tyson

Combining black feminist theory,

Smith enters the world of indepen-

philosophy, and performance stud-

dent professional wrestling,

ies, Sarah Jane Cervenak ruminates

a community-based entertainment

on the significance of physical and

staged in community centers, high-

mental roaming for black freedom.

school gyms, and other modest

She is particularly interested in the

venues. Like the big-name, televised

power of wandering or daydreaming

pro-wrestlers who originally inspired

for those whose mobility has been

them, indie wrestlers engage in cho-

under severe constraint, from the

reographed fights in character. Smith details the experiences, meanings, and motivations of the young men who wrestle as “Lethal” or “Southern Bad Boy,” despite receiving little-to-

no pay and risking the possibility of serious and sometimes permanent

WA N D E R I N G Philosophical Performances of Racial and Sexual Freedom Sarah Jane Cervenak

slave era to the present. Since the Enlightenment, wandering has been considered dangerous and even criminal when associated with people of color. Cervenak engages artist-philos-

ophers who focus on wayward movement and daydreaming, or mental

injury. Exploring intertwined issues of gender, class, violence, and

travel, that transcend state-imposed limitations on physical, geographic

the body, he sheds new light on the changing sources of identity in

movement. From Sojourner Truth’s spiritual and physical roaming to the

a postindustrial society that increasingly features low wages, insecure

rambling protagonist of Gayl Jones’s novel Mosquito, Cervenak high-

employment, and fragmented social support. Smith uncovers the

lights modes of wandering that subvert Enlightenment-based protocols

tensions between strength and vulnerability, pain and solidarity, and

of rationality, composure, and upstanding comportment. Turning to the

homophobia and homoeroticism that play out both backstage and in

artists William Pope.L, Adrian Piper, and Carrie Mae Weems, Cervenak

the ring as the wrestlers seek recognition from fellow performers and

argues that their work produces an otherworldly movement, an errant

devoted fans.

kinesis that exceeds locomotive constraints, resisting the straightening-

R. Tyson Smith is Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology at Brown

out processes of post-Enlightenment, white-supremacist, capitalist,

University.

sexist, and heteronormative modernity. Their roaming animates another terrain, one where free, black movement is not necessarily connected to that which can be seen, touched, known, and materially valued.

Sarah Jane Cervenak is Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and African American Studies at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

S O C I O L O GY/ S P O R T S/A M E R I C A N S T U D I E S

A F R I C A N A M E R I C A N S T U D I E S/ P E R F O R M A N C E S T U D I E S

August 240 pages, 27 illustrations

September 232 pages, 10 photographs

paper, 978–0–8223–5722–3, $23.95/£15.99

paper, 978–0–8223–5727–8, $23.95/£15.99

cloth, 978–0–8223–5709–4, $84.95/£55.00

cloth, 978–0–8223–5715–5, $84.95/£55.00

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Fall & Winter 2014 Catalog  

The Fall & Winter 2014 catalog from Duke University Press.

Fall & Winter 2014 Catalog  

The Fall & Winter 2014 catalog from Duke University Press.