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Body & Society, Vol. 6, No. 2, 45-72 (2000)
DOI: 10.1177/1357034X00006002003
© 2000 SAGE Publications
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Subaltern Bodies and Nationalist Physiques: Gama the Great and the Heroics of Indian Wrestling

JOSEPH S. ALTER

Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Born into a poor, Muslim family at the end of the 19th century, Gama became World Champion wrestler by defeating the reigning Polish champion in London in 1910. By focusing on the life of Gama, the heroic representations of Gama that appear in the Hindi language literature, and the transformations in wrestling regimens that have occurred over the past several centuries, I locate the discourse and practice of wrestling within a context of intersecting concerns with nationalism, class identity and embodied consciousness. To articulate the way in which subaltern identity is embodied in relation to nationalist ideas about masculine fitness, and in relation to the state as a political institution, I provide an analytic interpretation of the heroic body that focuses on themes of nervousness and obsession.

Key Words: body building • colonialism • masculinity • physical fitness




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Speculations on the Body and Sporting Spaces: The Cultural Significance of Sport Performance
American Behavioral Scientist, July 1, 2003; 46(11): 1577 - 1587.
[Abstract] [PDF]




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