Body & Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer

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Overview

When French sociologist Loïc Wacquant signed up at a boxing gym in a black neighborhood of Chicago's South Side, he had never contemplated getting close to a ring, let alone climbing into it. Yet for three years he immersed himself among local fighters, amateur and professional. He learned the Sweet science of bruising, participating in all phases of the pugilist's strenuous preparation, from shadow-boxing drills to sparring to fighting in the Golden Gloves tournament. In this experimental ethnography of incandescent intensity, the scholar-turned-boxer fleshes out Pierre Bourdieu's signal concept of habitus, deepening our theoretical grasp of human practice. And he supplies a model for a "carnal sociology" capable of capturing "the taste and ache of action."

Body & Soul marries the analytic rigor of the sociologist with the stylistic grace of the novelist to offer a compelling portrait of a bodily craft and of life and labor in the black American ghetto at century's end.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[R]eveals a remarkable ethnographic and theatrical eye...a model account of a personal, embodied sociology..." —American Journal of Sociology

"Body & Soul not only sets a new standard for scholarly research and writing on sport. It is a virtuoso performance that could—if properly read and disseminated and emulated—put the study of sport at the center of all sociological theorizing and analysis." —Social Forces

"[A] sociological tour de force...sure to be widely used as an exemplar of how to conduct participant observation research.... It is packed with fruitful conceptual and theoretical discussions." —Qualitative Sociology

"A fresh and authoritative treatment." —The Ring: The Bible of Boxing

"Body & Soul will pull you into the deep rhythms of boxing and should certainly earn a place in the canon of literature in the ring." —Los Angeles Times

"[R]eveals a remarkable ethnographic and theatrical eye...a model account of a personal, embodied sociology..." —American Journal of Sociology

"...a provocative, exhilarating, maddening, and profoundly idiosyncratic effort." —Contemporary Sociology

"Body & Soul not only sets a new standard for scholarly research and writing on sport. It is a virtuoso performance that could—if properly read and disseminated and emulated—put the study of sport at the center of all sociological theorizing and analysis."—Social Forces

"[A] sociological tour de force...sure to be widely used as an exemplar of how to conduct participant observation research.... It is packed with fruitful conceptual and theoretical discussions." —Qualitative Sociology

"A fresh and authoritative treatment." —The Ring: The Bible of Boxing

"Body & Soul will pull you into the deep rhythms of boxing and should certainly earn a place in the canon of literature in the ring." —Los Angeles Times

"Loic Wacquant's Body and Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer is perhaps the best yet sociology of the body—-its theorizing is less explicit than is the acuteness of the observations." —Contemporary Sociology

Publishers Weekly
In this challenging work, French sociologist (and MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellow) Wacquant engagingly writes about his participation in a previously foreign social milieu. For Wacquant, it is the world of a famous (and now defunct) Chicago boxing gym in the tough black neighborhood of Woodlawn, just south of the predominantly white University of Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park, where Wacquant was teaching and living. For three years he "trained alongside local boxers, both amateur and professional, at the rate of three to six sessions a week, assiduously applying myself to every phase of their rigorous preparation," from shadowboxing to sparring in the ring. The result is a detailed and compelling narrative divided into three equally entertaining and distinct parts. The first and most dense, "The Street and the Ring," is an explication of the "social space" of the gym that balances a hardcore theoretical look at the gym as "a complex and polysemous institution" with excellent interviews with the gym's tough-talking owner DeeDee Armour that reveal how the "controlled violence" of the gym stands as an option to the violent street culture on Chicago's South Side. Two shorter essays are less academic in style and show Wacquant to be an excellent reporter. In one, he describes in depth one of the more than 30 boxing tournaments he attended in various nightclubs, movie theaters and sports arenas. In the other, after he is completely accepted by gym patrons, who have named him "Busy Louie," he thrillingly details his own successful competition in the Chicago Golden Gloves, the city's most prestigious amateur tournament. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Social Forces
As serious about the sweet science of boxing as Wacquant is practiced in the craft of sociology, Body & Soul not only sets a new standard for scholarly research and writing on sport. It is a virtuoso performance that could - if properly read and disseminated and emulated - put the study of sport at the center of all sociological theorizing and analysis.
American Journal of Sociology
Here is tough-minded social realism standing against a popular neoromanticism, each essential and unavoidable in an ethnography that poses as literature of public truth. Through this clash emerges a model account of a personal, embodied sociology, depicting how pain and effort become integral to, and constitutive of, the establishment of tightly held group bonds.
—Gary Alan Fine
The Ring: The Bible of Boxing
A fresh and authoritative treatment.
L.A.Times
Body & Soul will pull you into the deep rhythms of boxing and should certainly earn a place in the canon of literature in the ring.
The Sociological Review
... a well-written, insightful and above all fascinating account which draws the reader in, combining sociological insight with good stories about strong characters.... this is a great book, which I recommend to anybody with even a vague interest in embodiment, sport, or boxing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195305623
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/31/2006
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 546,895
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 5.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Loïc Wacquant is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Researcher at the Centre de sociologie européenne, Paris. A MacArthur Foundation Fellow, he is the author of numerous works on urban marginality, ethnoracial domination, the penal state, and social theory, translated in some dozen languages. He is a co-founder and editor of the interdisciplinary journal Ethnography.

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Table of Contents

The Taste and Ache of Action
Preface to the U.S. Edition
Prologue
The Street and the Ring
An Island of Order and Virtue
"The Boys Who Beat the Street"
A Scientifically Savage Practice
The Social Logic of Sparring
An Implicit and Collective Pedagogy
Managing Bodily Capital
Fight Night at Studio 104
"You Scared I Might Mess Up 'Cause You Done Messed Up"
Weigh-in at the Illinois State Building
An Anxious Afternoon
Welcome to Studio 104
Pitiful Preliminaries
Strong Beats Hannah by TKO in the Fourth
Make Way for the Exotic Dancers
"You Stop Two More Guys and I'll Stop Drinkin'"
"Busy" Louie at the Golden Gloves
List of Illustrations
A Note on Acknowledgments and Transcription
Index

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