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Boxing family: Theorising competition with boxers in Accra, Ghana

Hopkinson, Leo

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Anthropologists have often conceptualised competition by contrasting it with cooperation, even when collective ends are sought and achieved by competing. This approach tells us little about the qualities of the relationships and subjectivities that competition sustains. I explore the qualities of competitive relationships and subjectivities among Accra boxers, whose lives are lived with a sense of constant competition with one another. Boxers describe these competitive relationships using kinship idioms, and distinguish keenly between these kinship metaphors and non-metaphoric kin relations. A sustained comparison between competitive relations and kin relations in Accra reveals how competition intertwines subjectivities and futures, rather than producing hyper-individualistic and self-interested ‘neoliberal subjects’. I thus argue that boxers use kinship as a metaphoric resource to help them navigate the fraught intimacies that competition fosters. Their rendering of competition as kinship suggests how anthropologists can theorize the contradictory nature of competitive relationships with more nuance.


Hopkinson, L. (2023). Boxing family: Theorising competition with boxers in Accra, Ghana. Critique of Anthropology,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 27, 2023
Online Publication Date Sep 11, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Apr 27, 2023
Publicly Available Date Apr 28, 2023
Journal Critique of Anthropology
Print ISSN 0308-275X
Electronic ISSN 1460-3721
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL
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Accepted Journal Article (372 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This contribution has been accepted for publication in Critique of Anthropology.

Published Journal Article (Advance Online Version) (615 Kb)


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Copyright Statement
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (

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