When French sociologist Loïc Wacquant signed up at a boxing gym in a black neighborhood of Chicago's South Side, he had never contemplated getting close to a ring, let alone climbing into it. Yet for three years he immersed himself among local fighters, amateur and professional. He learned the Sweet science of bruising, participating in all phases of the pugilist's strenuous preparation, from shadow-boxing drills to sparring to fighting in the Golden Gloves tournament. In this experimental ethnography of incandescent intensity, the scholar-turned-boxer fleshes out Pierre Bourdieu's signal concept of habitus, deepening our theoretical grasp of human practice. And he supplies a model for a "carnal sociology" capable of capturing "the taste and ache of action."
Body & Soul marries the analytic rigor of the sociologist with the stylistic grace of the novelist to offer a compelling portrait of a bodily craft and of life and labor in the black American ghetto at century's end.
In this challenging work, French sociologist (and MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellow) Wacquant engagingly writes about his participation in a previously foreign social milieu. For Wacquant, it is the world of a famous (and now defunct) Chicago boxing gym in the tough black neighborhood of Woodlawn, just south of the predominantly white University of Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park, where Wacquant was teaching and living. For three years he "trained alongside local boxers, both amateur and professional, at the rate of three to six sessions a week, assiduously applying myself to every phase of their rigorous preparation," from shadowboxing to sparring in the ring. The result is a detailed and compelling narrative divided into three equally entertaining and distinct parts. The first and most dense, "The Street and the Ring," is an explication of the "social space" of the gym that balances a hardcore theoretical look at the gym as "a complex and polysemous institution" with excellent interviews with the gym's tough-talking owner DeeDee Armour that reveal how the "controlled violence" of the gym stands as an option to the violent street culture on Chicago's South Side. Two shorter essays are less academic in style and show Wacquant to be an excellent reporter. In one, he describes in depth one of the more than 30 boxing tournaments he attended in various nightclubs, movie theaters and sports arenas. In the other, after he is completely accepted by gym patrons, who have named him "Busy Louie," he thrillingly details his own successful competition in the Chicago Golden Gloves, the city's most prestigious amateur tournament. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.