Craig Owen 2016

Masculine identities and the performance of ‘awesome moves’ in capoeira classes

The high-flying, almost gravity defying, acrobatic movements of capoeira practitioners are increasingly being viewed in movies, advertisements and computer games. Drawing upon four years of ethnographic fieldwork in capoeira classes in the South West of England, this paper will demonstrate how capoeira is primarily represented in the mass media, at live demonstrations and through multi-media artefacts through the visual spectacle of the capoeirista performing ‘awesome moves’. It will be argued that these representations legitimate capoeira as a masculine practice and work to attract men to class by producing a visual discourse that embraces numerous aspects of orthodox masculinity (Anderson, 2009). The paper will then examine how, once in class, in order to acquire the body techniques needed to perform ‘awesome moves’, male beginners must negotiate a series of capoeira practices that problematize their embodied masculinities. By working through these ‘gender troubles’, male capoeirista undergo a process of embodied, visual and discursive transition, wherein they demonstrate a shift towards the performance of more inclusive masculinities.


Biographical Note

Craig Owen in a Lecturer in Psychology at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham. He teaches in the areas of Social Psychology, Health Psychology and Qualitative Methods. His primary research interest focuses on the performance of masculine identities in capoeira and Latin and ballroom dance classes. His PhD provided an in depth ethnographic account of how, by learning to dance, young men are able negotiate a range of complex discourses of masculinity and enact shifting identities. Currently, he is collaborating on a new research project that explores the negotiation of identities in the process of becoming a UK citizen.