'The King of the Arena. Sport, spectacle and celebrity in Senegal' by Julien Bonhomme (EHESS)

This talk will be given as part of the Departmental Seminar of the School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography


'The King of the Arena. Sport, spectacle and celebrity in Senegal'
Julien Bonhomme (EHESS)


In Senegal, làmb, a sport that combines traditional wrestling and bare-knuckle boxing, is a true national passion. The champions are immensely popular and earn huge sums of money. Wrestling is a spectacle that combines fight, dance, song and ritual, and through which the whole of Senegalese society puts on a show. Like soccer elsewhere, Senegalese wrestling embodies the dreams of success of young men from the working-class. Wrestlers fight to earn a living for themselves and their families, but also for the glory and fame that victory brings. However, success is not just a matter of athletic talent: a wrestler cannot become a champion without the material, moral and “mystical” support of his team-mates, his family, his neighbourhood, and the village he comes from. By placing “popularity”, the cardinal value of Senegalese wrestling, at the centre of the analysis, the conference will shed light on the dynamics of celebrity, a symbolic capital at the very heart of social life.