Circulation of Kinesic Practices and Representations in Chinese Martial Arts
Martial arts, designated by the generic term wushu 武术 in Mandarin, take various forms in modern China. They are part of a collective imagery mobilised through literary and cinema productions as well as new media such as video games, cartoons, and online videos. Wushu is a popular practice in which individuals such as masters, disciples, or simple enthusiasts are part of the genealogy of specific wushu lineages. Wushu is also an institutional discipline in which new national and standardised new sets of routines discursively constructed as part of the continuity of traditional lineages are often practised as a sport, either in competitions or in physical education classes. This “sportisation” takes place alongside the patrimonialisation of certain traditional lineages, which are registered as national immaterial heritage. Chinese institutions are reclaiming the meaning of popular practices, which has led to considerable structural and ideological change. Such developments raise the question of the impact on practitioners’ habits and the way they articulate these new representations.
Launched in June 2016, this four-year doctoral research project has focused on how representations of martial techniques and gestures –whether executed by real practitioners or fictional characters– are transmitted from one medium to another, creating, conserving or dissipating their contents, so that the idea of martiality appears in many different guises. The project combines (a) the kinesic analysis of visual and textual materials; and (b) ethnographic studies of martial arts practice sites such as sport teams, martial arts schools, and other relevant structures in China.
Bodily movements are not only a mode of expression but also a way of generating meaning. The project addresses the broad question of embodied knowledge –namely, its various modes of production and circulation– within the context of Chinese martial arts. It reflects on the kinesic and kinaesthetic aspects of martial arts gestures as an arena in which political and ideological constructions are continually re-negotiated.
For further details on the project, contact the project's main researcher Pierrick Porchet.
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