Mid-Atlantic Popular &
American Culture Association

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Professional Wrestling

Area chair

Melinda Maureen Lewis (Drexel University)

Professional wrestling stands in the middle of a Venn diagram with several circles when it comes to studying American and Popular Culture. It is part sport, theater, and melodrama. Wrestling happens on television, in arenas, basements to crowds of 10, 1000, 25000, 1.5 million. It is part fiction, part adaptation, and part documentary. We are interested in all topics that might fit into what Roland Barthes called, “the spectacle of excess,” including but not limited to:

  • The political economy of wrestling, particularly the relationship between corporate and independent companies; the concept of independent contractors; unionization efforts; the economic implications of opening “the forbidden door;” the history of the corporatization wrestling from regional to national companies.
  • Issues of representation, including: #SpeakingOut; representations of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, class within companies, specific episodes or storylines, and fandom.
  • Explorations of fandom that might include examining parasocial relationships; Twitter turf wars; influencer fans; the formation of wrestling communities; fan fiction; wrestlers as fans.
  • Wrestling as performance — both in terms of acting and performers’ physicality (wrestling psychology).
  • Storytelling and looking at ways in which narrative arcs have been developed and built, wrestlers telling stories in the ring, and character development.
  • Wrestling on television and issues of viewership, commercialization, and ownership.
  • Adapting wrestling whether it is products from ancillary markets like WWE and Scooby Doo; films like The Wrestler, … All the Marbles, or the El Santo franchise; or professional wrestlers’ autobiographies.

And, of course, we welcome proposals that find space to mix and match the above bullet points! Professional wrestling has a tremendous number of possibilities, and we welcome all theoretical frameworks and methodologies from all those interested.

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