Postcolonial Play: Encounters with Sport and Physical Culture in Contemporary India
Maddox, Callie Elizabeth
Andrews, David L
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Drawing upon the idea that India and the West are "tethered geographies" (Reddy, 2006), this dissertation project explores how the ongoing and dialogic relationship between contemporary India and the West is represented, experienced, and contested in and through the realms of sport and physical culture. With escalating rates of economic growth, a rapidly expanding middle class, and increasing international political clout, India is emerging as a global power while simultaneously defining itself as a postcolonial nation against, and in tandem with, the West. Utilizing a fluid theoretical vocabulary (Andrews, 2008) and employing mixed qualitative research methods that include participant observation and interviews, I examine how various sites of physical culture serve as points of meaningful exchange between India and the West. This project presents a necessarily partial and contingent understanding of the chosen sites, tempered by considerable reflexivity and self-awareness, as my own Self is intricately enmeshed in this work. The four distinct, yet related, empirical studies that comprise this project thus focus on the following: 1) the embodiment of gendered nationalism and male power as manifested by the Cheer Queens, a cheerleading squad supporting the Pune Warriors cricket team in the Indian Premier League, and the Great Khali, a professional wrestler from India who performs internationally for World Wrestling Entertainment; 2) the city of Delhi's efforts to (re)create itself as a "world class" metropolis by hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games that resulted in spatial exclusion and the magnification of social inequalities; 3) changing body ideals amongst the young Indian middle class influenced by Western fitness practices and neoliberal discourses of healthism; 4) perceptions of authenticity held by Western tourists traveling to India to study Ashtanga yoga that reject the syncretic evolution of yoga and contribute to a construction of Otherness that continues to mark India and Indians as exotic, primitive, and poor. Also included is an "interlude" chapter centered on my personal experiences as a white, Western woman navigating the complexities of daily life in India and questioning the place of my own body within a context of fear, harassment, and assault.