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Clear Round : Equestrian Embodiments - Race and Gender Matters

By Alice Wahl


The object of this thesis is to explore the connections between race, gender and equestrianism. This aim stems from personal experiences of becoming a “horse girl” in a Swedish horsebackriding context, which indeed is lined with racialized and gendered norms. I am inclined to understand how equestrianism, i.e. horseback riding practices and communities, often comes to be considered as white and (un)obtainable for some and not others. Through interviews with nine equestrians located in the United States and observations in their stable environments, the thesis seek to investigate how gender and racial norms appear and materialize, and thus shape the interviewed participants lived experiences in horse human environments. Through a theoretical framework of Sara Ahmed’s elaboration on phenomenology, Karen Barad’s term intra-action and Donna Haraway’s figuration companion species, the thesis discusses the multi-layered and complex ways in which race and gender is produced in and produces equestrian spaces and practices. The analysis shows that equestrianism is habitually oriented around whiteness, shaping the proximity between some (and not other) human and horse bodies in the regional landscape where the participants reside. Horses are both organized in and organize the contours of the city, entangled in the politics of racial segregation and the materialization of classed environments and neighborhoods. Equestrian communities, especially those that practice the disciplines of dressage and show jumping, repeatedly welcome and extend certain human (and non-human) bodies while stopping and questioning others. Further, different equestrian spaces materializes in differentiating and multi-sensoric ways, making certain color schemes, tactile sensations of textures and scents appear as racialized and gendered, and in turn forms the premises of belonging. The thesis then displays the political and affective connections between human and non-human bodies, objects and rooms in the specific context of equestrianism, and argues that such aspects must be understood as co-produced rather than separate entities. The discussion thus complicates binary dichotomies such as nature and culture, human and non-human and matter and discourse, showing how such aspects instead are entangled in the production of equestrianism and racialized and gendered “difference”

Topics: Race, Gender, Whiteness, Equestrianism, Horses, Orientations, Intra-action, Companion species, Gender Studies, Genusstudier
Publisher: Södertörns högskola, Genusvetenskap
Year: 2017
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