Virtually Legitimate: Using Disembodied Media to Position Oneself in an Embodied Community


Previous research on capoeira suggests that face-to-face training is the ideal mode of learning this art. However, there is a
robust corpus of capoeira tutorials available on YouTube. This paper asks what the function of these videos is. I analyze six comment threads taken from YouTube that exhibit a common pattern, concluding that beyond the video’s utility as a source
of information, the comments shared by community insiders serve as an invitation for aspiring students to join the embodied capoeira community, paving the way for their adoption of the underlying ethos of capoeira by socializing them into the ‘anyone can do it if they work hard enough’ discourse that is common in capoeira academies. And while this discourse itself is somewhat deceptive insofar as not everyone can do all of the moves of capoeira – even if they work hard – it is actually the mediating link between technical mastery, which could theoretically be achieved from watching videos, and embodiment of capoeira’s generative grammar, which must be learned in an embodied community setting.


DOI 10.18573/j.2017.10185


Griffith, Lauren Miller. 2017. ‘Virtually Legitimate: Using Disembodied Media to Position Oneself in an Embodied Community’, Martial Arts Studies 4, 36-45.


Lauren Miller Griffith is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Texas Tech University. Dr Griffith received her PhD in anthropology from Indiana University. She studies performance and tourism in Latin America and the U.S. Specifically, she focuses on the Afro- Brazilian martial art of capoeira and how non-Brazilian practitioners use travel to Brazil to increase their legitimacy within this genre.
Her work on capoeira has been published in Annals of Tourism Research, the Journal of Sport and Tourism, and Theatre Annual, and she is the author of In Search of Legitimacy: How Outsiders Become Part of the Afro-Brazilian Capoeira Tradition [2016]. She is currently working on a new book titled Apprenticeship Pilgrimage [under contract with Lexington Books].

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