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Embodied Nation

Embodied Nation: Sport, Masculinity, and the Making of Modern Laos

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 334
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  • Book Info
    Embodied Nation
    Book Description:

    Viewing the country's extraordinary transitions-from French colonialism to royalist nationalism to revolutionary socialism to the modern development state-through the lens of physical culture, Simon Creak's incisive narrative illuminates a nation that has no reputation in sport and is typically viewed, even from within, as a country of cheerful but lazy people. Creak argues that sport and related physical practices-including physical education, gymnastics, and military training-have shaped a national consciousness.

    Combining cultural and intellectual history, Creak draws on a creative array of Lao and French sources from previously unexplored archives, newspapers, and magazines, and from ethnographic writing, war photography, and cartoons. More than an "imagined community" or "geobody," he shows that Laos was also a "body at work," making substantive theoretical contributions not only to Southeast Asian studies and history, but to the study of the physical culture, nationalism, masculinity, and modernity in all modern societies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-5316-7
    Subjects: History, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xv)
  6. Map
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    In February 1936, the semifinal of the annual Bédier Cup football (soccer) tournament in Vientiane ended in a violent brawl between local Lao spectators and the visiting Amusporta team. Amusporta forfeited the match, sending its predominantly Lao opponents, Police-Sport, through to the following week’s final against another Lao team, Laotienne Sportive-Artistique (LAS). As cup holders, LAS had organized and refereed the preliminaries. Writing in theAnnam Nouveaunewspaper a fortnight later, an indignant “Annamite spectator” blamed the “disappointing and farcical spectacle” squarely on the “despotic refereeing” of the LAS referee, Thao (Mr) Bong, and the “aggressive provocations” of the Lao...

  8. 1 Making a Modern Tradition
    (pp. 22-51)

    The basic premise oftikhiis betrayed by its name:timeans “to hit” whilekhi(orluk khi) refers to the ball that is struck.¹ Resembling field hockey, the game is played between two teams using sticks to propel the ball towards a flag, a post, or a more conventional goal. For generations of scholars, interest intikhihas resided less in the game itself than in its historical or mythological resonance in the ritual complexes of the Lao kingdoms, particularly with reference to ethnic relations. The peerless ethnographer of Lao myth and ritual, Charles Archaimbault, found the game...

  9. 2 Renovating the Body, Restoring the Nation/Race
    (pp. 52-83)

    The French may have laid foundations in the 1920s and 1930s, but it was during the Lao Nhay cultural renovation movement of 1941–1945 that colonial sport and physical culture effloresced into a major feature of local culture and politics. This expansion occurred as part of the so-called National Revolution, an ultraconservative program for national renewal that originated in the southern French spa town of Vichy—the seat of Marshal Philippe Pétain’s Nazi-collaborationist regime (1940–1944)—before sweeping through the French Empire. Sport and physical training, key features of this cult of rebirth, arrived first in the major centers of...

  10. 3 Embodying Military Masculinity
    (pp. 84-117)

    The April 1950 ceremonies transferring powers from France to the Lao government formalized the previous July’s Franco-Lao General Convention. This was not the first agreement granting self-determination to the young country; amodus vivendicreating the Kingdom of Laos had devolved limited powers in 1946. Nor did it provide complete autonomy, let alone independence; the Associated State of Laos, as it was officially known, remained subordinate to France, which retained important strategic powers.¹ In popular perception, however, the convention marked the emergence of Laos as an “independent state” and produced an outpouring of pride and optimism. In a commemorative volume...

  11. 4 Sport and the Theatrics of Power
    (pp. 118-139)

    The two-decade period after the 1954 Geneva Agreements was defined by intractable division and protracted civil war. Against this inauspicious background, the National Games of 1961 and 1964 combined modern sporting spectacle with existing genres of state performance in a grand demonstration of national unity and progress. On the one hand, Olympic-based sporting motifs and the modernity of the athletic body boosted the symbolic power of the games founder, General Phoumi Nosavan, demonstrating the well-known capacity of state performance to reinforce political legitimacy. On the other, they were able to display Phoumi’s status as a national leader, recalling a premodern...

  12. 5 Representing Meuang Lao in Southeast Asia
    (pp. 140-166)

    Participating on the regional sporting stage provided another means of galvanizing the association between sport, the human body, and national politics in postcolonial Laos. Despite generally poor performances, such competition engendered comparison with surrounding countries, which reinterpreted precolonial and colonial dialectics of friendship and antagonism, emulation and rivalry, through the prism of international sport. The relationship between sport, nationalism, and regional relations in Laos was profoundly shaped by the region’s rival Cold War alliances, from which local communist, neutralist, and rightist factions emerged. These rivalries stemmed from and intensified competing notions of what represented the authentic Lao nation and rightful...

  13. 6 Socialist Cultures of Rhetoric and Physicality
    (pp. 167-194)

    The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) took power in December 1975, ending what would become known as the thirty-year revolutionary struggle and ushering in the authoritarian Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR). While the rise of the socialists ended one battle framed by the Cold War, it heralded another as the new regime turned its attention to the spheres of politics, economics, and culture. Concerning the last of these, the “revolution in culture and thought” aimed to build a “new socialist person” as a requisite factor for the construction of socialism. Strong and healthy, the new socialist person was defined by...

  14. 7 Mobilizing the Revolution
    (pp. 195-225)

    Elite-level sport—especially spectator sport—offers a second perspective on how the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party utilized sport for political objectives in socialist Laos. After coming to power in 1975, the party-state energetically embraced such sports in order to build a “revolutionary atmosphere,” nurture revolutionary “friendship,” boost Laos’ international reputation on the world stage, and promote gender equality—objectives that were to advance the revolution by strengthening the party-state, boosting socialism, and bolstering nationalism. As simplistic and even naive as this vision may appear, the performative qualities of large-scale sporting events possess a special capacity to animate ideology, particularly the...

  15. 8 Vientiane Games, 2009
    (pp. 226-246)

    It is late 2009 and final preparations are underway for the 25th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Vientiane.¹ A relatively vast new stadium complex has been completed on the city’s outskirts; flags of the eleven competing nations—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam—flutter in the December breeze above pretty flower beds, constructed for the occasion in front of sports venues, national monuments, and government buildings; and finishing touches are applied to roads and other new infrastructure. Lao organizers are thrilled to finally be hosting the SEA Games, especially as this year marks...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 247-288)
    (pp. 289-310)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 311-328)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 329-337)