Breton wrestling (gouren) is a local style of stand-up grappling which is practiced in Brittany, France. It has an ancient tradition in the region, which is actually not easy to retrace with historical accuracy (Epron 2008). However, Breton wrestlers consistently refer to the generic and indefinite Celtic/peasant past of the practice when they talk about their activity (Nardini 2016a). Moreover, not only such an idealised history explicitly resonates in the rhetoric that describes and promotes gouren, but is also learned and re-enacted by Breton wrestlers through their gestures and daily practice. This manifestly emerges, for example, in the so-called "Mod Kozh" tournaments, the "old-fashioned" outdoor competitions. The way gouren is performed today hence involves a series of gestures, techniques, terms, and codified actions that, while evoking its Breton past, also underline the "bretonnity" of Breton wrestling; that is, its representativeness towards Breton culture and "character". However, these contemporary features of gouren have been mostly selected and reassessed over the last century, as a consequence of the gradual process of "sportisation", normalisation, and institutionalization of the practice started in the late 1920es (Epron & Robène 2006). In other words, through the modernisation of the practice, it has actually been possible to strengthen, redefine, and reaffirm it as an authentic expression of Breton history, culture and values (Epron, 2008; Nardini, 2016b). For these reasons, gouren can be considered as a "passion ordinaire", an "ordinary passion" (Bromberger, 1998). In fact, it gives practitioners meaningful motivations to get involved into the practice, investing a considerable part of their time, expectations, and social relations in it. Therefore, as a consequence of its hybrid conformation between competitive, institutionalised modern sport and traditional activity, Breton wrestling attracts new and assorted groups of devotees (e.g. women and children, who have not actively participated in wrestling until the 1970es: cf. Epron & Jollivet 2007), encouraged by different cultural trajectories and collective or individual motivations. In other words, it truly acts as a polysemic practice. Nevertheless, all these individual and collective meanings effectively operate in a coherent frame that, paraphrasing Bateson (1972), indicate "this is [Breton] play". In that way, gouren maintains strong local and traditional connotations that contribute to re-define and transmit, for many of its practitioners, a sense of regional awareness and belonging in the context of contemporary globalised France (given that the concept of "region" in France is actually a political and cultural "construction": cf. Bourdieu 1980; Bromberger & Meyer 2003; Meyer 2003). From an interdisciplinary point of view, which involves both the historical and anthropological analysis, this paper examines the practical, performative, and symbolic aspects that still make gouren an emblematic activity. In particular, the analysis focuses on some distinctive and indicative traits such as the "serment", the formal oath pronounced by Breton wrestlers at the beginning of each competition; the "accolade", the ritual handshake that bodily ratifies such a commitment; the process of "euphemisation de la violence" (Clément 1981) carried out by Breton wrestlers in the way they train, compete, and talk about gouren; the "democratic" and anti-hierarchical model of teaching and transmission of the technical expertise. By evoking in such a performative way the idealised, un-conflicting, and therefore unifying past of the practice, these features consistently and concurrently re-enact, at the same time, the sets of symbols, values, and features that have been historically selected to emblematically represent Breton people, culture, and "character" (Bertho 1980; Le Coadic 1998; McDonald 1990; Simon 1999; Delon 2007). Such a reciprocal link between Breton wrestling and culture acts as a "profit de distinction" - a "profit of distinction" - in the sense of Bourdieu (1979). Indeed, not only does it make Breton wrestling truly "Breton", but it also differentiates gouren (in a positive way) from other coexisting wrestling practices in the social context such as Olympic wrestling and especially judo. Therefore, as Breton culture has historically defined itself in opposition to French culture and identity (Le Coadic 2003), Breton wrestling correspondingly defines itself also in opposition to judo and other concurring physical activities, that are attached to the "hegemonic" vision of France and Western globalising culture.
Nardini, D. (2018). Symbols and belonging. Breton wrestling as an expression of Breton identity. Intervento presentato a: Ethnography and Qualitative Research Conference, Bergamo (Italy).
|Citazione:||Nardini, D. (2018). Symbols and belonging. Breton wrestling as an expression of Breton identity. Intervento presentato a: Ethnography and Qualitative Research Conference, Bergamo (Italy).|
|Tipo:||abstract + slide|
|Carattere della pubblicazione:||Scientifica|
|Presenza di un coautore afferente ad Istituzioni straniere:||Si|
|Titolo:||Symbols and belonging. Breton wrestling as an expression of Breton identity|
NARDINI, DARIO (Corresponding)
|Data di pubblicazione:||2018|
|Nome del convegno:||Ethnography and Qualitative Research Conference|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||02 - Intervento a convegno|