Continued from Parts 1&2
As Bowman himself pointed out continuously throughout his writings and lectures, Bowman is mortified by anything fixed, of the process of petrification inherent in crafting definitions, even of the idea of (static and unchanging) ‘truth’ as such.
Bowman perceives culture(s), the martial arts therein, and their martial narratives as networks of meanings, attributions, and ’supplements’, none of which exist in isolation, but rather are constituted by and through the other cultural condensations in this network.
Following Stuart Hall, Bowman thus calls for ‘conjunctural analysis’, which he argues enables scholars to understand a given phenomenon within its contextual dependencies and temporal fluidity – a perspective that, even if the jargon might be different, will likely come natural to many of us.
His approach is never straightforward, but (possibly because of that) his results are convincing. The predominant questions in many martial arts discussions, be they among practitioners or academics, are ‘What is…?’ and ‘What was…?’ The questions raised (and often quite satisfyingly answered) in the book, however, are more along the lines of ‘How do/did they imagine it to be?’; ‘How do/did they tell others and are/were themselves told to imagine it to be?’; and, most importantly, ‘Why do/did they want to imagine it to be that way?’
Guided by these questions, Professor Bowman discusses the status of Asian martial arts in the West.