Defamiliarizing Heavy-Contact Sports: A Critical Examination of Rugby, Discipline, and Pleasure

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Richard PringleUniversity of Waikato

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Pleasure can be regarded as a productive force in the constitution of the social significance of sport and desiring sport subjects. The organization and use of sport pleasure has been a relatively marginalized topic of examination. To promote and examine sport pleasure, I conducted semistructured interviews with seven passionate rugby players. Transcripts were analyzed via Foucauldian theorizing and revealed the intertwined workings of technologies of dominance and self in the constitution of rugby pleasures. As a strategy to defamiliarize and disrupt habitual and uncritical acceptance of rugby aggression, I argued that rugby pleasures were akin to sadomasochism. Rugby can be understood as a taboo-breaking game associated with transparent relations of power connected with the pleasure induced from physical domination and the fear of pain.

The author is with the Department of Sport and Leisure Studies, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton, New Zealand.

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