Wrestling in Brittany

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In Brittany, a region in northwestern France, there are currently about 1600 members of the Gouren Federation, who practice gouren, or Breton wrestling, and transmit this wrestling tradition. Since it was first institutionalized as a sport during the Interwar period, the progressive transformation of Breton wrestling as an organized sport has been debated among its practitioners. In this process, representations of local identity – especially in terms of power of action and identification – have created tensions and shifts around the meaning and function of this cultural tradition. The aim of this paper is to focus on the transformative practices at the intersection of globality and locality and to understand the processes of creation, recreation, reinvention (or “imagination”) of practices and identity in this laboratory of tradition. This anthropological-historical analysis of gouren attempts to show how the sportization of the activity has participated in the larger process of inventing a region, but is neither a linear nor definitive process and does not necessarily result in uniformity and homogenization.