Call for Participants | Jesús Costantino: “Friday Nights Live: Television and Prizefighting in the Post-Segregation Era” | Iowa Colloquium on Sport and Culture. Webinar on Zoom, Friday November 10, 2023

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The relationship between postwar television broadcast and the Civil Rights Movement is complex. In an effort to untangle some of this fraught history, this talk examines the entanglements between live television broadcasts and interracial prizefighting in the 1950s and 1960s. Looking at the history of live prizefight broadcast as well as the TV and film versions of Rod Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight (produced in 1956 and 1962, respectively), the talk analyzes the ways live broadcast technology was shaped by (and shaped in turn) the post-segregation racial regime. Not only do Serling’s two fight narratives directly reflect on the role of live television in the world of boxing, but the opening sequence of the later film version includes an underappreciated first-person sequence in which a Mexican American fighter (played by Mexican-Irish actor Anthony Quinn) fights with and loses to a young Muhammad Ali. More than a film about the decline of an aging boxer and an aging sport, Requiem for a Heavyweight also imagines a particular televisual future, embodied in the figure of the young Ali. Tracing this imagined future forward, the talk concludes with a brief discussion of the two global televisual spectacles organized by Don King and “starring” Muhammad Ali: the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla in Manila. 

About the Speaker 

JESÚS COSTANTINO is an Associate Professor of English at the University of New Mexico where he teaches in American literature and visual media, with particular emphasis on critical studies of race and class. His first book, Scraps in Black and White: Boxing, Race, and Media in the Segregation Era, traces the racial genealogy of bodily sensation in modern prizefighting and media technologies. He has also begun a new book project, Under the Sign of Disaster Triumphant, that focuses on the shared colonial histories and present-day circumstances of disappearance and dispossession in the US and Latin America. Supplementing these two book-length projects, he continues to explore the interplay between visual media and the literary arts in essays on Gordon Parks’s fashion photography, independent video game design, and photo-texts of the Depression era.

How to participate

Iowa Colloquium on Sport and Culture is Friday, November 10 2023, 4:00pm CST (22:00 CET). The talk will be delivered on Zoom and is free and open to the public. Please register in advance for this webinar at the link below: After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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