Olatz González Abrisketa, Basque pelota, a ritual, an aesthetic

Olatz González Abrisketa, Basque pelota, a ritual, an aesthetic, Center for Basque Studies, Series: The Basque Series (Book 20), 2012

The game of pelota is, as Wilhelm von Humboldt described it, "the principal festival of the Basques," and is, for Pío Baroja, "the Basque game par excellence." Indeed, as Olatz González Abrisketa aptly demonstrates in Basque Pelota: A Ritual, an Aesthetic, pelota is one of the most revealing frameworks of meaning and understanding of the Basque imaginary. By digging into the historic, symbolic, and even mythological roots of the sport, and by describing interconnected webs of meaning in the various domains of social, juridical, bodily, and imaginative experience, she shows how pelota constitutes a ritualized action that both stages and repairs social antagonisms by offering a "deep play" that prevents violent conflict and implies paramount cultural transformation for the Basques. Furthermore, she shows that the joko or "agon" of pelota has a foundational role in culture; the metaphoric extensions of "hand", "pelota", and "body"; and how the fronton or plaza is the Basque public space par excellence and a monument to the community's memory.

Olatz González Abrisketa is an anthropologist and professor of anthropology from the Basque Country. Her research expertise includes sports, nations, gender and feminist studies, rituals and symbolism, and filmmaking. She is also a prized documentarian.

"This vibrant and communitarian game had to wait for Olatz Gonzalez Abrisketa for a much-needed ethnography that would reveal its social and symbolic dimensions."
—Joseba Zulaika, author of That Old Bilbao Moon


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