Official Call for Chapter Proposals
Title: Colliding Inside the Squared Circle: The Convergent Nature of Professional Wrestling
Editors: CarrieLynn D. Reinhard (Dominican University) & Christopher J. Olson (Dominican University)
Purpose: The concept of convergence represents one of the most pervasive buzzwords in media studies, but with good reason. In essence, convergence concerns how the boundaries between different technologies, practices, and ideas blur together to create something new. This becomes important when considering that the current media landscape consists primarily of convergent texts and technologies. For instance, the smartphone functions as a prime example of this phenomenon, because it is combines the telephone, the computer, the global positioning system, the television, the music player, and other technologies into one convergent device. This confluence of technologies results in the creation of a completely new technology that in turn results in new forms of engagement.
Convergence, however, concerns more than just changes in technology. At the same time these technological convergences occurred, convergences occurred on economic levels, as companies merged with one another; on audience levels, as the lines blurred between consumption and participation, between producer and consumer, and between active and passive; and on textual levels, as more intertextuality, fragmentation, and serialization occurred, creating transmedia, spreadable media, and polymedia experiences. In post-modern societies and cultures, fueled and connected by the internet, traditional boundaries have blurred, leading to new power dynamics, tensions, and opportunities to develop new forms and practices of communication. Scholars such as Ithiel de Sola Pool, Henry Jenkins, and Nico Carpentier, among many others, have written about the potentials and pitfalls of this emerging convergent culture. We believe that this theoretical perspective particularly is particularly useful when analyzing a media text like professional wrestling.
In this volume, the authors will examine professional wrestling through the theoretical lens of convergence. Professional wrestling (a.k.a. sports entertainment) has long been criticized for placing more emphasis on the fiction of its entertainment rather than the reality of its sport. Academic scrutiny tends to focuses on this aspect, as well as the potentially racist, misogynist, and jingoist messages frequently conveyed via sports entertainment programming. The essays in this volume contend that professional wrestling functions as a prime example of convergent media, and therefore becomes a vital text within the context of the overall media ecology of the 21st century. Rather than deride so-called “sports entertainment” for walking a blurred line between authenticity and artifice, we believe professional wrestling’s importance lies precisely in how it combines fiction with reality.
In all aspects, professional wrestling exists at the intersection of a variety of identities, realities and practices, some of which initially appear oppositional to one another. The stories presented combine a number of different genres, including drama, action, comedy, horror, science fiction, and even romance. The business practices exist at the intersection of fan-centric and bottom-up strategies, but also demonstrate a strict top-down corporate control. The wrestlers themselves combine aspects of carnival hucksters, actors/actresses, comedians, superheroes, martial artists, stuntmen, and more. The narratives frequently consist of everything from social critique to geopolitical allegories, and from soap opera melodramas to exploitation. These are just some of the ways sports entertainment reflects the concept of convergence, and this book will look at all of them and more.
Proposed Structure: This collection will consist of an introduction, a conclusion, and 10-12 essays exploring this topic. We want the theoretical lens of “convergence” to be central to all the chapters in the anthology: different takes on it, combining it with other terms, theories, concepts, but still to have this anthology be a dialogue on what it means to use convergence to understand professional wrestling. That is, the analysis of the chapter should consider a specific way in which some aspect of professional wrestling represents a convergence of any of, but not limited to, the following:
- Business styles, organizations
- Marketing, promotions, advertising practices
- Audiences, communities
- Fandom activities, experiences
- Genre, format conventions
- Technologies, delivery methods
- Wrestling federations
- Realities, fantasies
- Identities, powers
Thus, we are looking for chapters that consider how professional wrestling represents this post-modern era of convergence in terms of how the wrestling is conducted, presented, and received. Some research questions to consider are:
- What do you see converging in professional wrestling?
- How do these things converge?
- Is the convergence successful or not? When and where?
- What does this convergence say about the nature of professional wrestling?
- What does this convergence say about this era of media production and consumption?
- What does this convergence say about power dynamics in professional wrestling?
- What does this approach to professional wrestling say about the theoretical lens of convergence?
Further criteria for chapters:
- Each essay should contain original scholarship and research on this topic.
- This scholarship and research can be on any aspect of professional wrestling, and on any wrestling federation.
- Each chapter would be 6000-8000 words long, depending on the number of submissions.
Chapter Proposal Submissions: If anyone is interested in submitting a chapter proposal for this anthology, then please submit the following to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Essay proposals, to be considered for inclusion as a chapter, should contain a title, your name with your university and title, and 200-250 word abstract explaining the following:
- The aspect of professional wrestling you analyze.
- Your use “convergence” and related concepts, theories in your analysis.
- The potential conclusion drawn from your analysis.
Submit your chapter proposal by July 31, 2016.
Sample Table of Contents
The following presents information as to what will be covered in the introduction and conclusion chapters, as well as an example of an essay examining WWE’s The New Day.
Introduction: Defining professional wrestling as convergence
CarrieLynn D. Reinhard (Associate Professor, Dominican University) & Christopher J. Olson (Adjunct Professor, Dominican University)
This chapter will describe professional wrestling by offering a brief historical overview of the sport and defining some of the key terms used by producers and fans, such as kayfabe, babyface, heel, job, smarks, etc. Additionally, the authors will define the concept of convergence as it has been used in communication, media studies, and cultural studies. Following these definitions, the authors will introduce the idea that when looked at as a text and a practice, professional wrestling functions as an example of convergence through the specific examination of kayfabe as the convergence of realities.
“Hey, we want some New Day!”: A rhetorical analysis of the New Day’s performance as convergence culture
Christopher J. Olson (Adjunct Professor, Dominican University)
The WWE faction known as the New Day (Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, and Big E) has appropriated elements from various pop culture texts such as Pokémon, Harry Potter, My Little Pony and rap music in their in-ring promos and back stage interviews. As such, the group’s rhetorical performance resembles both Jenkins’ concept of remix culture and Richard Dawkins’ concept of memes, and thus demonstrates convergence. Additionally, given the group members’ control over their social media presence, which they use to expand upon both their real and kayfabe personas, the group’s performance also displays elements of prosumption. The New Day’s prosumer nature indicates a further convergence between their consumer identities and producer identities. This rhetorical performance allows the audience to see the personalities that lie behind the performed characters, which helps the New Day appeal to a specific segment of the WWE’s audience
Conclusion: Coming together in the ring
CarrieLynn D. Reinhard (Associate Professor, Dominican University)
This chapter will briefly synthesize the various ideas introduced in each chapter to demonstrate how these various concepts and ideas work together to produce the phenomenon known as professional wrestling, which cannot exist without the convergence of several different and wholly disparate aspects. This conclusion will then be used to relate professional wrestling to other areas of everyday life, such as online interactions and politics.