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One of four UC Press titles designated Outstanding Academic Titles for 2019 by CHOICE

Few activities bring together physicality, emotions, politics, money, and morality as dramatically as sport. In Brazil’s stadiums or China’s parks, on Cuba’s baseball diamonds or Fiji’s rugby fields, human beings test their physical limits, invest emotional energy, bet money, perform witchcraft, and ingest substances. Sport is a microcosm of what life is about. The Anthropology of Sport explores how sport both shapes and is shaped by the social, cultural, political, and historical contexts in which we live. Core themes discussed in this book include the body, modernity, nationalism, the state, citizenship, transnationalism, globalization, and gender and sexuality.

"Sports offer excitement, triumphs, tragedies—and escape from the routines of modernity. But sports also reach into the world, and the world reaches into sports. This expert trio of authors shows how this emergent field of research promises to contribute in exciting ways to the growth of global anthropological knowledge."—Ulf Hannerz, author of Writing Future Worlds

"One could not hope for a better trio of scholars to produce such an absorbing and instructive critical survey of sports for anthropology. It is comprehensive and lucid, inspiring and field-defining. Read this book and never again will you be able to deny the centrality of sport to our core anthropological concerns of body dynamics, gender, ritual, nationalism, globality, media, and more."—William W. Kelly, Professor of Anthropology, Yale University

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UC Press Anthro of Sport

The contributors gathered here revitalize “ethnographic performance”—the performed recreation of ethnographic subject matter pioneered by Victor and Edith Turner and Richard Schechner—as a progressive pedagogy for the 21st century. They draw on their experiences in utilizing performances in a classroom setting to facilitate learning about the diversity of culture and ways of being in the world. The editors, themselves both students of Turner at the University of Virginia, and Richard Schechner share recollections of the Turners’ vision and set forth a humanistic pedagogical agenda for the future. A detailed appendix provides an implementation plan for ethnographic performances in the classroom.

Each new generation of cultural scholars returns to ritual as a focus of study, and for good reason; ritual allows tacit cultural truths, contradictions, and conundrums to be artfully embodied and spectacularly performed. And there are no two scholars more qualified to bring us this timely text. Supplementing seminal essays by Victor and Edith Turner are chapters by ritual scholars who share their own time-tested teaching techniques, each of which is either adapted or adaptable to the contemporary world in which our ritual experiences are almost always electronically/digitally mediated in some form or fashion. Frese and Brownell’s writing is refreshingly clear, substantive, and insightful. Their book will be as useful to the seasoned professor as it is accessible for undergraduate and graduate students. The latter will benefit not only through learning about the history, theory, and ethnographic methods as applied to ritual, but also they will gain directly applicable knowledge as instructors-in-training. —Mark Pedelty, Professor, Communication Studies; Fellow, Institute on the Environment; Affiliate Faculty, Anthropology at the University of Minnesota

Palgrave MacMillan book

For the last half-century, the East Asian nations have been as crucial to the Olympic movement as the Olympic Games have been significant to the East Asian nations. Each time the Games have returned to Asia, the region has loomed larger and larger on the world stage, and the Olympics themselves have vastly increased in magnitude. This book explores the powerful mutual influence between the Olympic movement and the nations of East Asia. Cities and countries vie fiercely for the right to host the Games and attempt to add their own special flavor and themes to their venue. National sport federations and national media always threaten to turn the Games into contests for national prestige. The book analyzes how the various Asian-site Olympic Games have been important for the capital-city development, national politics and nationalist sentiments, and the inter-regional relations of Japan, South and North Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

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When Athens and Beijing hosted consecutive Olympic Games in 2004 and 2008, the global spotlight fell on a pair of cities deeply rooted in two ancient civilizations. Called upon to give meaning to the world today, these two Olympiads also fostered systematic consideration of the differing conceptions of sport itself in the two countries in which they took place. From Athens to Beijing  is the first book-length comparison of ancient Greek and Chinese  sports.  Bringing  together  leading scholars of  Greece  and China,  it sheds new light on what is uniquely “Western” about the ancient Greek culture of the body and what is shared with Chinese tradition. This volume also explores the discrete concepts of “East” and “West,” particularly as seen through the novel lens of sport. It contrasts the Chinese preference for harmony and intellectual debate with the Greek admiration of disagreement and physical competition—prejudices passed down to the present through the eyes of Chinese historians who valued brain over brawn, as opposed to Greek  historians  who  praised  heroism  and  physical  prowess.  Ultimately,  the  essays  in  this  volume  illustrate  the  ways  in which sport expresses both the political differences that divide us as well as the ecumenical pursuit of health and virtue that unites us all.

From Athens to Beijing  offers a rich assortment of insightful, informative essays by a baker’s dozen of outstanding scholars on a variety of stimulating topics:  physical  education,  medical  theory,  military  arts,  history,  and  literature.  This  is  a  valuable  volume  that  will  be  read  with  profit  and  relish  by  anyone with an interest in the Olympics, both in antiquity and in the modern age, and as manifested across the globe. —Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania


From Athens to Beijing  will interest scholars and students alike. Composed of engaging and accessible articles by leading experts on ancient Greece and China, the volume is a unique and valuable resource for the history of sports, which also offers, more broadly, fresh perspectives on comparative cultural history. —Shigehisa Kuriyama, Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History, Harvard University


The present volume represents an innovative effort to compare the ideas of sports, the body, and humanism in Greece and China, and stems from the  conference  funded  by  a generous gift from the  late  Captain  Vassilis Constantakopoulos.  It  is the  hope  of  the  organizers  that this book will  stand as a lasting testimony to Captain Vassilis’s love of both Greek and Chinese cultures, and that it will carry on his legacy of fostering the friendship and cooperation of these two ancient civilizations. —Michael Cosmopoulos, Hellenic Government-Karakas Foundation Professor in Greek Studies, University of Missouri-St. Louis


Why is hosting the Olympic Games so important to China? What is the significance of a quintessential symbol of Western civilization taking place in the heart of the Far East? Will the Olympics change China, or will China change the Olympics? Susan Brownell sets the historical and cultural stage for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games by exploring the vital links among sports, gender, state power, Chinese nationalism, and China's national image in the West over the past century. She places the 2008 Games within the context of China's hundred-year engagement with the Olympic movement to illuminate what the Games mean to China and what the Beijing Olympic Games will mean for China's relationship with the outside world. Brownell's deeply informed analysis ranges from nineteenth-century orientalism to Cold War politics and post-Cold War "China bashing."

Drawing on her decades of engagement as a college athlete in China, university professor, media expert, and advisor to the International Olympic Committee, the author utilizes her personal experiences and access to unique sources to paint an evocative and human picture of the passion that many Chinese people feel for the Olympic Games. Her book will appeal to scholars and students across the social sciences. It will also be essential reading for journalists and sports enthusiasts who want to understand the fascinating story behind the Beijing Olympics.

U.S. Academic Defends China, Citing Progress: New Book Explains Beijing's Perspective On Sports, Olympics, by Ian Johnson, Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2008

Rowman & Littlefied
Nebraska Press

Winner of the 2009 Best Anthology Award from the North American Society for Sport History

One of the more problematic sport spectacles in American history took place at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, which included the third modern Olympic Games. Associated with the Games was a curious event known as Anthropology Days organized by William J. McGee and James Sullivan, at that time the leading figures in American anthropology and sports, respectively. McGee recruited Natives who were participating in the fair’s ethnic displays to compete in sports events, with the “scientific” goal of measuring the physical prowess of “savages” as compared with “civilized men.” This interdisciplinary collection of essays assesses the ideas about race, imperialism, and Western civilization manifested in the 1904 World’s Fair and Olympic Games and shows how they are still relevant.

A turning point in both the history of the Olympics and the development of modern anthropology, these games expressed the conflict between the Old World emphasis on culture and New World emphasis on utilitarianism. Marked by Franz Boas’s paper at the Scientific Congress, the events in St. Louis witnessed the beginning of the shift in anthropological research from nineteenth-century evolutionary racial models to the cultural relativist paradigm that is now a cornerstone of modern American anthropology. Racist pseudoscience nonetheless reappears to this day in the realm of sports.

"In this edited volume, sports anthropologist Brownell leads an exploration of a forgotten moment in premodern anthropology. . . . A very successful project of intellectual history."—J. Marks, CHOICE

"The multidisciplinary approach offered by this collection succeeds in exposing the relationships between anthropology, physical culture, the Olympic movement, and imperialism in revelatory ways."—John W. Troutman, Western Historical Quarterly

"The authors provide not only a window into the history of a sporting event but also an important story about sports as a system of representation. This volume is a fine collection that recalls a past event that is still relevant to the present."—John Bloom, American Historical Review

"This is a well-conceived volume that will be of wide interest to many scholars."—Barbara Keys, Journal of American Ethnic History

Known as China's Mr. Olympics, He Zhenliang helped shape the course of Chinese sports diplomacy for over 50 years, giving direction to some of its greatest events. The book recounts his career, including working as French interpreter for Premier Zhou Enlai, Ping Pong Diplomacy, China’s return to the Olympic Games, and Beijing’s Olympic bids.


He was the PRC’s senior sports diplomat and was appointed the first member of the International Olympic Committee in the People's Republic in 1981. Aided by his fluent French - learned as a student in French Jesuit schools in Shanghai before the Revolution - he became a member of the IOC Executive Board in 1985 and vice president in 1989. As honorary president of the Chinese Olympic Committee, he worked tirelessly to promote the Olympic movement and the principles for which it stands. He particularly worked among young people to instill in them the spirits and ideas of the Olympic dream.

Written by his wife Liang Lijuan, senior journalist at the People's Daily, the book chronicles He's memories of the sports world. It provides an insider's perspective on the timeline of China's sports history, including the fight against "two Chinas" in international sports organizations in the 1950s, the founding of the Games of the Newly Emerging Forces (GANEFO) in the 1960s, China's return to the IOC Fold in the 1970s, the 1990 Beijing 11th Asian Games, and Beijing's bids for the 2000 and 2008 Olympic Games.

He and Liang liked to say that they "grew up along with China." His life is also a record of the PRC's history since its founding. It also records the growth of a common boy who devoted his every effort to sports and the Olympic cause, said Liang Lijuan at the 2007 book launch ceremony in the Great Hall of the People, adding that the book was dedicated to those who stood and fought alongside He in every battle he faced over the course of his lifetime.

The book was translated by Susan Brownell. Her translator's speech at the book launch ceremony was reprinted in the People's Daily. 

Foreign Languages Press
UC Press Gender

The past two centuries have witnessed tremendous upheavals in every aspect of Chinese culture and society. At the level of everyday life, some of the most remarkable transformations have occurred in the realm of gender. Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities is a mix of illuminating historical and ethnographic studies of gender from the 1700s to the present.

The essays in this highly creative collection are organized in pairs that alternate in focus between femininity and masculinity, between subjects traditionally associated with feminism (such as family life) and those rarely considered from a gendered point of view (like banditry). The chapters provide a wealth of interesting detail on such varied topics as court cases involving widows and homosexuals; ideal spouses of early-twentieth-century radicals; changing images of prostitutes; the masculinity of qigong masters; sexuality in the era of reform; and the eroticization of minorities. While most of the essays were specifically written for this volume, a few are reprinted as a testament to their enduring value.

Exploring the central role of gender as an organizing principle of Chinese social life, Chinese Femininities/ Chinese Masculinities is an innovative reader that will spark new debate in a wide range of disciplines.

"In Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities we finally have a volume that scholars of the world outside China will ignore at their peril, so thoroughly will it shake prevailing assumptions about how sexuality and gender can be historically and culturally constituted. Scholars and teachers of history, anthropology, sociology, history of medicine and science, law, politics, literature, and psychiatry, among others, should prepare for the great impact this splendid book is sure to have." – Emily Martin, author of The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction

U Chicago Press

Competing in the 1986 National College Games of the People’s Republic of China, Susan Brownell earned both a gold medal in the heptathlon and fame throughout China as "the American girl who won glory for Beijing University." Now an anthropologist, Brownell draws on her direct experience of Chinese athletics in this fascinating look at the culture of sports and the body in China.

Training the Body for China is the first book on Chinese sports based on extended fieldwork by a Westerner. Brownell introduces the notion of "body culture" to analyze Olympic sports as one element in a whole set of Chinese body practices: the "old people’s disco dancing" craze, the new popularity of bodybuilding (following reluctant official acceptance of the bikini), mass calisthenics, martial arts, military discipline, and more.

Translating official and dissident materials into English for the first time and drawing on performance theory and histories of the body, Brownell uses the culture of the body as a focal point to explore the tensions between local and global organizations, the traditional and the modern, men and women. Her intimate knowledge of Chinese social and cultural life and her wide range of historic examples make Training the Body for China a unique illustration of how gender, the body, and the nation are interlinked in Chinese culture.

Throughout her analysis, Brownell admirably succeeds in maintaining her focus on the subjectivity of her informants. We never forget that the various cultural, political, and social questions she explores are grounded in the experiences of living human bodies that feel the pleasures of successful performance and pains of injury and defeat. Other recent work has greatly advanced our understanding of the body as a site of social contestation, yet in many analyses the body emerges as an idealized intellectual construct seemingly devoid of any corporeality. Brownell successfully conveys a sense of personhood. This intellectually generous book will be a keystone for future work. In addition to being a substantial contribution itself, the book suggests much future research on contemporary and historical Chinese sport, state policy, popular culture, and gender. – Peter J. Carroll, Journal of Asian Studies 55(2): 432-33 (May 1996).

This is by no means the first book on sport in China. It is, however, the first perceptive insight for Western readers into sport and physical education in China. In other words, it is free of the Western ethno-centric view of sport in a different culture and of the fawning Maoist/Stalinists political interpretation of Chinese sport provided by both Chinese and Western authors. – James Riordan, The China Quarterly 152: 886-87 (December 1997)

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