Work and Shoot: Professional Wrestling and Embodied Politics

Chow, Broderick D.V. (2014) Work and Shoot: Professional Wrestling and Embodied Politics. TDR/The Drama Review, 58 (2). pp. 72-86. ISSN 1054-2043


This article describes and conceptualises a period of auto-ethnographic research in which the author trained in the physical performance form of professional wrestling at a small wrestling school in East London (UK). The author describes his experiences of wrestling as a practice of cooperation, improvisation, and care for the other, which counterpoints the outwardly manifested antagonism and violence of the practice. In the argot of wrestling, the creation of the illusion of violence through cooperation is termed ‘work’, which stems from the association of wrestling with the culture of late 19th and early 20th-century carnivals and fairs. As a physical and embodied practice, work demonstrates an ethics of care, trust and openness to the other. The author reads his embodied observations of working against the labour economy of professional wrestling in order to theorise work as a practice of subversion and resistance. While the precarious labour economy of professional wrestling disciplines its workers into adopting certain dangerous and deleterious practices, the cooperative nature of the performance form practices and models a politics of friendship.


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