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Fighting For Justice: Violence, Criminality, and Boxing in Postindustrial Brooklyn

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Abstract:

For my panel presentation, I ask how young men of color in postindustrial Brooklyn have articulated, embodied, and achieved a sense of personal and social justice after periods of forced confinement by enacting legitimate forms of violence, namely those practiced in the boxing ring. Amateur fighters use the boxing gym as a space in which to recover from forced confinement, readjust to life outside prison walls, and avoid criminal futures. Though they are not paid for their labor, they understand boxing as their job. In the absence of opportunities for traditional forms of employment, amateur boxers use the gym to engage in masculine socializations of the wage, such as the production of discipline, dignity, and respect, and to derive some of the social benefits of a workplace, such as inclusion in collective forms of identity and sociality. The urban gym is a unique space for processes of recovery and readjustment because it is populated by significant numbers of older men who have made relatable life transitions, suffered similar difficulties with prison, crime, and the postindustrial wage, and thus can provide support.

Though notions of justice differ among the men, they are all derived in a context and out of personal histories of crime, incarceration, and racial injustice. The practices of pugilistic violence and the identities and social relations produced by them can only be understood in reference to the specters or crime—imputed and real—and punishment that haunt them. Thus I examine the constructions of criminality, participation in criminal economies, patterns of mass incarceration, and features of racial injustice that inform lived experiences in the urban boxing gym, the site of my ethnographic research. I consider, for example, the relationships among the violence of prison life, the violence of street cultures, and the violence of the boxing ring.

In this paper, I am particularly interested in the inventive capacities black and Latino fighters express in forging new identities and social relations as well as in carving out new opportunities for stabilization through legitimate forms of violence, especially in areas of Brooklyn with few resources and in the midst of expanding carceral orders, racial exclusion, and urban marginality. At the same time, I am concerned with the limitations of this atavistic, masculine form of body culture. Is this use of violence an expression of Foucauldian self-subjection or what Adorno considers "ritual in which the subjected celebrate their subjection" (Adorno 1991)? Or might there exist a more complex understanding of these aggressive and gendered practices?
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MLA Citation:

Trimbur, Lucia. "Fighting For Justice: Violence, Criminality, and Boxing in Postindustrial Brooklyn" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA, Oct 11, 2007 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p185815_index.html>

APA Citation:

Trimbur, L. B. , 2007-10-11 "Fighting For Justice: Violence, Criminality, and Boxing in Postindustrial Brooklyn" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p185815_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: For my panel presentation, I ask how young men of color in postindustrial Brooklyn have articulated, embodied, and achieved a sense of personal and social justice after periods of forced confinement by enacting legitimate forms of violence, namely those practiced in the boxing ring. Amateur fighters use the boxing gym as a space in which to recover from forced confinement, readjust to life outside prison walls, and avoid criminal futures. Though they are not paid for their labor, they understand boxing as their job. In the absence of opportunities for traditional forms of employment, amateur boxers use the gym to engage in masculine socializations of the wage, such as the production of discipline, dignity, and respect, and to derive some of the social benefits of a workplace, such as inclusion in collective forms of identity and sociality. The urban gym is a unique space for processes of recovery and readjustment because it is populated by significant numbers of older men who have made relatable life transitions, suffered similar difficulties with prison, crime, and the postindustrial wage, and thus can provide support.

Though notions of justice differ among the men, they are all derived in a context and out of personal histories of crime, incarceration, and racial injustice. The practices of pugilistic violence and the identities and social relations produced by them can only be understood in reference to the specters or crime—imputed and real—and punishment that haunt them. Thus I examine the constructions of criminality, participation in criminal economies, patterns of mass incarceration, and features of racial injustice that inform lived experiences in the urban boxing gym, the site of my ethnographic research. I consider, for example, the relationships among the violence of prison life, the violence of street cultures, and the violence of the boxing ring.

In this paper, I am particularly interested in the inventive capacities black and Latino fighters express in forging new identities and social relations as well as in carving out new opportunities for stabilization through legitimate forms of violence, especially in areas of Brooklyn with few resources and in the midst of expanding carceral orders, racial exclusion, and urban marginality. At the same time, I am concerned with the limitations of this atavistic, masculine form of body culture. Is this use of violence an expression of Foucauldian self-subjection or what Adorno considers "ritual in which the subjected celebrate their subjection" (Adorno 1991)? Or might there exist a more complex understanding of these aggressive and gendered practices?

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