Martial Arts Anthropology

Douglas Farrer sent me this, nice to see martial arts getting its due:

Dear friends, co-authors, and colleagues,

The panel 'Anthropology, martial arts and the State' was accepted today for a major forthcoming conference AAS/ASA/ASAANZ 2017, SHIFTING STATES, Adelaide 11-14 Dec. For details see:

This is a significant moment in martial arts studies as it demonstrates international academic interest in the investigation of martial arts as a scholarly discourse. I hope to see you there!! Any volunteers for papers, or to act as discussant, please contact me.


Title: Anthropology, martial arts and the State

Short Abstract: What does the emergent anthropology of martial arts reveal about statecraft? What may yet be learned from the chrysanthemum and the sword?

Long Abstract: Accepting that States and persons are mutually constitutive, this panel questions State involvement in martial arts, and the role of martial arts in the State. Anthropologists have documented the rationalization of martial 'traditions' to implement and incorporate nation-building strategies. As purveyors of nationalist sentiment martial assemblages uphold the dominant ideological narrative of the regimes from which they emerge. The modern State penetrates the martial body with ritualized rules and regulations, codified beliefs and practices, and sanitized customs and creeds. The goose-step typifies the administration of flesh, war machines disciplined via techniques du corps. Spectacles of mass performed synchronized moves, selected by committees, appeared together with State created martial traditions, including tàijíquán, wushu, taekwondo, silat, and karate, jostling for position in a market of intangible cultural heritage. Reconstructed martial arts substituted ruthless methods of indigenous combat for performances of national pride. American society, however, mobilized for permanent war, awash with guns, recently evolved Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), a fusion of boxing, wrestling, and Brazilian jiu jitsu; basically the most brutal fighting 'sport' since the Roman gladiators. The recent spectacle of a tàijíquán master 'grounded and pounded' by a retired MMA fighter displays cultural déjà vu. Have governments emasculated their own people through the provision of neutered martial skills? Has leisure and entertainment confounded the transmission of effective combat? Where do custodians of rebellious public ritual, revolutionary martial assemblages, challenge the State? Welcoming discussion of phenomenological, social constructivist, and poststructuralist ethnographies, this panel invites attempts to theorize martial arts, persons, and States.