Body and Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer (2022)

The new, expanded anniversary edition, 2022 (out in November 2021) contains 140 pages of new text sketching “the making of” the study, elaborating the theory of habitus, and charting the trials and tribulations of the gym members over 30 years and what they teach us about the economics of blood, masculinity, love, and sociology.

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.”

This expanded anniversary edition features a new preface and postface that take the reader behind the scenes and reveal the “making of” this classic ethnography. Wacquant reflects on his path to, and uses of, fieldwork based on apprenticeship. He traces the genealogy and draws the anatomy of habitus and explicates how he deployed it as method of inquiry. The postface retraces the trials and tribulations of his gym mates in and out of the gym over the past thirty years, and reflects on what they reveal about the economics of pain and masculinity, and the passion that binds boxers to their craft.

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.

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