Research Project: Young Muslim Women in Combat Sports: Tensions and Connections
In the Netherlands and other European countries, young Muslim women are increasingly active in combat sports, such as boxing and thai-/kickboxing. This study investigates young Muslim women’s engagement in combat sports as an emergent trend. What drives and enables young Muslim women to practice kickboxing and what are the effects of these activities on their notions of self and on their position in society? This anthropological research focuses on Moroccan-Dutch female kickboxers and will explore the process of acquiring bodily knowledge (ways of knowing) and the acquisition of skills (enskillment) as a means of (re)producing notions of self and senses of belonging. This enskillment is not merely about modelling and copying, but is a form of coordination between a person’s body, perceptions, resources, tools and environment. The investigation of ways of knowing in this particular kickboxing setting will not only provide insight in practice of kickboxing and the notion of being a kickboxer, but as well in the different ways of knowing regarding gender, ethnicity, class and religion. Whereas many debates on the Muslim female body in Europe are focused on the headscarf, this study aims at developing an alternative view on the politicization of the relationship between the individual and society, in which women’s bodily practices are the sites for contestations over national, ethnic and religious identities and forms of belonging.