University of Notre Dame

Martial Arts and Global Media

Course Number: ANTH 13181-2
Instructor: Eric Haanstad

This International University Seminar enlists the martial arts to explore themes from history, philosophy, anthropology, aesthetic theory, media studies, and sports as embodied practice. The course’s interaction with the Notre Dame Beijing Global Gateway localizes these transnational themes, with shared student experiences in China providing a formative cultural context for the remainder of the course. By merging multiple dimensions of historical identity, artistic expression, and cultural practice, martial arts have a unique ability to access the human imagination. From Hong Kong cinemas, to Black Belt magazines, to MMA pay-per-view events, to online video games, martial arts are intertwined with the popular culture of global media. Drawing from a pre-semester study abroad experience in China, this course synthesizes the global transmission of martial arts through an interdisciplinary approach to the anthropological history of symbolically violent media. By tracking the proliferation of the martial arts in popular media, from Yip Man film sequels, to muay thai youtube clips, to karate tournament supply catalogues and dojo iconography, the cultural lives of these arts are revealed. We will examine these cultural expressions in a range of styles from direct immersion in zhōngguó wǔshù (Chinese martial arts) including qìgōng, tàijíquán, Shàolín wǔgōng and other gōngfu styles to the broad diversity of global martial arts media including jujitsu in Japan, kali/escrima in the Philippines, pencak silat in Indonesia, and savate in France. In this way, the course crafts informative linkages between the cultural variations of martial arts and their global influence in popular consciousness.

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