Rolling with the Originals: A Personal Foray (Autoethnography) into Gender Roles in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as Experienced in Brazil and the US

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Steinborn, Micah
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University Honors College, Middle Tennessee State University
This thesis compares the practice of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil and the United States of America in relation to identity formation and negotiation, particularly gender identities. I expand on the idea that within the context of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), identities among practitioners are negotiated differently than in broader society. I discuss how the nature of BJJ may affect how others view women’s identities both in and out of that context. I also argue that gender identity may not be paramount in the negotiation of interactions but may be one of several influences on the roles people take in the sport. The methodological approach used is autoethnography– an approach utilizing lived experience as evidence with which to explore cultural phenomena (Adams et al. 2017). It is an approach that recognizes that critical exploration of one’s own experiences can provide cultural insight in a way that other quantitative or large-scale studies cannot.