Body cultures, martial arts and combat sports

Head: Alexandre Mathys

This research group aims to study the singularities and cross-fertilizations between body culture, martial arts and combat sports from an interdisciplinary and intercultural perspective. Whether viewed from the angle of social and political sciences, history or sports science, these subjects enrich reflections that, by a ripple effect, allow us to question contemporary issues. While the various disciplines that observe them more specifically, such as martial arts studies or body culture studies, address their specific themes, they all recognize the value of a holistic approach to these practices.

The first approach seeks to shed light on how these bodily practices integrate and influence our societies. The mutation of a certain number of martial arts to gain sporting recognition is significant, for example. It also underlines the desire of countries to articulate these transformations of practices in a process for globalization, and even Olympic recognition in some cases. They thus become the vehicle for diplomacy, sometimes informal, and political issues.

Other research focuses on studying body culture, which intersects with sports, medicine, the arts and religion. Body practices become a malleable clay that shapes society and its customs. Whether for aesthetic purposes, a spiritual quest or a desire for entertainment, bodily practices and combat sports are evolving. The modern players in this interest, in disciplines as varied as yoga, tai chi, MMA and fitness, offer a rich mosaic for sociologists and anthropologists.

Lastly, certain body techniques are also used in the arts. Numerous hybridizations take place. Although sometimes criticized as an attempt of cultural appropriation, they are a source of reflection and it allows the transportation of these corporal practices to the world of art. The aim here is to analyze the dialogue between bodily practice and the humanities, cognitive sciences and digital technologies. It also examines the methodology and experimentation involved in creative research in the arts.

Within the framework of CEO&GS and the MAP network, we wish to contribute to this scientific discussion around body culture by promoting exchanges and projects within Unil between researchers from different fields. Through thematic events, we also wish to give a voice to different parts of the world to optimize international collaboration.

Researchers at UNIL Position
Alexandre Mathys Doctoral student, domain head
Mickaël Langlois Graduate assistant
Kevin Rosianu Graduate assistant
Tess Schweizer Graduate assistant
External researchers Position/Affiliate
Dr Ai-Cheng Ho ATER (Temporary Teaching and Research Associate), University Paris 8
Alexandre Legendre Lecturer, University Paris Cité
Pr Wen-Hsuan Tsai 蔡文軒 Research fellow, Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica, Taipei (ROC)
Pr Daniel Mroz Professor, University of Ottawa
Pr Olivier Bernard Associate professor, Laval University
Gilles Dietrich University Paris Cité
Cristiano Roque Antunes Barreira School of Physical Education and Sports of Ribeirão Preto – USP, EEFERP-USP
Akira Kurashima Kwansei Gakuin University
Alexiane Cocqueret University Paris Cité