3:10-4:00: Academic Keynote by Heather Levi

Heather Levi is an assistant professor of anthropology at Temple University. She is a co-editor of the recently released Professional Wrestling: Politics and Populism (Seagull 2020), and is the author of The World of Lucha Libre: Secrets, Revelations and Mexican National Identity (Duke, 2008) as well as several book chapters. For her dissertation fieldwork, she trained in lucha libre with Maestro Luis Jaramillo Martinez. It was a lot more fun than writing the dissertation.


In her keynote address, Heather Levi discusses the relationship between politics and professional wrestling around the world.

One consequence of the 2016 presidential election was a surge of interest in professional wrestling on the part of the news media, as commentators drew connections between Donald Trump’s unconventional campaign style and his close connection to the WWE. This linkage between politics and wrestling should have come as no surprise to scholars of wrestling; for nearly seventy years, in a variety of academic disciplines, writers have taken the latent socio-political message of wrestling’s narrative structure as their object of analysis.

In most cases, wrestling is seen to promote a worldview fully congruent with Trump’s brand of populist ethno-nationalism. However, while it could be argued that the very structure of professional wrestling is broadly compatible with a populist worldview, it need not be tied to one that is tied to any specific political tendency. This address will consider the alternative possibilities immanent in the professional wrestling form, as they can be seen in wrestling styles in Mexico and Bolivia, as well as Indy styles in the United States.

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