The Barbaric Spectacle of Late Modern Fighting

Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Peter B. Kraska

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Second Advisor

Victor E. Kappeler

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


Few events can ignite public controversy and attract popular attention than that of violence. A fascinating new development - human cage fighting - has generated massive audiences and significant media attention. Existing beneath the visceral spectacle of mediated Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is an underworld of human fighting that is gripping contemporary popular culture. By offering more illicit and brutal forms of violence, this netherworld has increasingly distorted the boundary between criminality and entertainment. Despite the massive implications stemming from this phenomenon, criminology has yet to inquire into this rapidly growing trend. This study sheds initial empirical and theoretical light on "human fighting" through employing ethnographic research methods by making use of field participation, direct observations, and in-depth interviews. By utilizing methods that permit the close systematic collection of data, this ethnography has allowed for an intimate understanding of both state-sanctioned and underground human fighting activities. In order to make theoretical sense of the major findings, a late-modern framework is used to contextualize this emerging phenomenon as well as unpack its situated meaning and social significance.


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