The Training Camp: American Football and/as Spectacle of Exception

Chris McLeod, Justin Lovich, Joshua I. Newman, Rachel Shields

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In this article, we use the theories of Giorgio Agamben to conceptualize the contemporary American football training camp as a material and metaphorical "camp"-a "space of exception" or a zone of indistinction where bare life is produced and the exception becomes the rule. Our aim is not to sportingly trivialize the horrors of those camps about which Agamben has written extensively (i.e., the concentration camps of the Third Reich), nor do we set out to hyperbolize the events, logics, or methods of the football training camp. Instead, we move to answer Agamben's call to "learn to recognize [the camp] in all its metamorphoses." In the process, we hope to address some of the criticisms leveled at Agamben's work and move toward reconceptualizing a biopolitics of human movement, vitality, potentiality, and action. It is our contention that "the camp" provides an important site through which to understand the (corpo)realities of contemporary American football as hyper-physical and hyper-commodified body spectacles defined by protective equipment turned into damaging weapon, players as "hitmen" with bounties on the heads of opponents, and "heterotopias of survival," which produce exceptional and measurable bodies, silent bodies, broken bodies, bodies that die the most banal, unheroic, and (un)acceptable deaths.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-244
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Sport and Social Issues
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • American football
  • bare life
  • biopolitics
  • spectacle
  • the camp


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