Training the Body

A player is not just interfacing with the game, they’re interfacing with the people watching it, too.

Training the Body for China is a work of clear purpose. Brownell’s examination into the nationalistic undertones behind sports and performance attempts to cleanly create a narrative where the individual player is subject to the whims of the larger “player” environment — that is to say that participation in competition means more than just a win or loss for the players on the field.

While games have always been nationalistic (see: my art of contest choice below) Training the Body for China discusses the strange politics behind what it means to become a loaded symbol for a game through her fame as an American on a Beijing team.

Brownell’s ideas of Body Culture and how it plays with nationality and nationalism brought to mind the Maoist propaganda of ideal, “productive”, full-faced women. By creating a nationally ideal symbol, the Chinese effectively cultivate a necessity, and need, to strive for sports wins, which ultimately lead to cultural capital in the form of legitimized competition.

Brownell’s assertions felt interesting in Tandem with the pictures about Polo in this week’s Art of Contest reading. Mainly in the sense that Polo is a game of cultivated cultural odor, depicted often as an upper-class game, something reflected in the fact that the players were, historically, upper-class people capable of affording horses. Yet the aesthetic experience of Polo slowly became an emulation of this image, and as a result crops up even in environments steeped in culture opposing (in the case of India) or vastly different from its perceived origin.

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