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, https://doi.org/10.1177/0308275X231202083