True Bounce: Stories of Dunlop and the Rise of Vulcanized Play
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This chapter explores how sport has shaped the history of rubber, how rubber has shaped the history of sport, and how together they have shaped the histories of Dunlop. It takes as its point of departure the claim that rubber is one of the foundational materials of modern sport and goes on to tell the stories of John Boyd Dunlop Sr. (the creator of the first successful pneumatic tire), the Dunlop Rubber Company, and the Dunlop Sport brand. It uses these stories to demonstrate what is made visible by understanding modern sport as a form of vulcanized play. The phrase vulcanized play aims to capture some key aspects of the historical relationship between rubber, sport, and technology. It ties the history of play, and especially the formation we think of as modern sport, to the industrial and imperial projects that structure the production of truer (better, more reliable, more standard) forms of buffer and bounce primarily through the material technology of rubber. In other words, it presents material science, industrial manufacturing, and imperial power as underwriting partners of sport, society, and technology.
Thank you to all of the squash players who spoke with me about the behavior of the Dunlop Pro squash balls, to Mary McDonald and Jennifer Sterling for running the sports and technology panels at the annual 4S conference and for inviting me to contribute to this volume, to Hannah Zeavin and Jessica Feldman for reading drafts of this chapter, and to Cuauhtli for collaborating with me in rescuing many abandoned balls from the streets of Los Angeles.
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