Presented by Abraham Seda, PhD Candidate and ICGC Mellon Scholar, Department of History
Abstract: Sports were an important part of the colonial project, and the assumed universality of the values and attitudes they could instill in Africans was widely touted. Although western-style sports such as cricket and soccer had been used extensively across the colonial world for purposes of social control and subject formation, boxing was a unique sport through which the colonial government in Zimbabwe aimed to achieve these goals. Administrators argued that if properly deployed, boxing could potentially help to enforce discipline. However, in a colonial context in which Africans had their own ideas about play and combat sports, boxing became an avenue for cultural and political expression in ways which the colonial government would ultimately deem subversive. Colonial officials came to define African boxing as a corruption of an otherwise ‘noble art’, and just an excuse for Africans to fight. What is silenced in this historical narrative are African representations of the sport and the ways of knowing they brought to the sport. My research centers the narratives of Africans to account for their lived experiences under an oppressive colonial state, but still creating spaces for recreation and leisure.