The Punching Factory: Boxers and Daily Life
As Naima explains, there is nothing arbitrary about how one moves one’s body at the gym. When the punching factory’s human gears begin to churn, it imposes order on combat, with all its positions and rituals—an order that is only fully apparent to those who participate in its organization. For my part, I did not notice its various iterations until I had spent some time among the boxers, hearing the same words and watching the same gestures repeated, taking notes that over time were enriched by those minute details that encapsulate an action’s full meaning. This chapter, which is the outcome of such an ethnographic filtering, describes the experiential framework in which the noble art is learned. The analysis will begin with conversations between boxers. From the sidelines of the training sessions, we will consider their banter and taunting as expressions of the tacit order governing gym interactions. This governing extends its domain over bodies. We will describe the body’s normative framework in the same manner as its physical ordeals. My goal will be to show how boxing—with its expected behavior and modulations thereof—becomes inscribed into the flesh of every boxer who absorbs himself in the cohesive work of combat. For it is through this cohesion, which emerges at the intersection between gesture and speech, that one acquires the ability to resist the Other—his blows, as well as his domination.