The 'subject-effects' of gyms : studying the interactional, sociospatial and performative order of the fitness site

Doğan, Ceren (2015) The 'subject-effects' of gyms : studying the interactional, sociospatial and performative order of the fitness site. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the ‘subject-effects’ of fitness gyms by investigating how the gym’s interactional, sociospatial and performative order informs participants’ sense of self and the ways in which they relate to their bodies. The thesis engages predominantly with the following theories: Foucault’s concept of heterotopia, Goffman’s theorization of total institutions and Scott’s elaboration of it as well as Bourdieu’s notion of habitus. Adopting a psychosocial framework, it is argued that these theories are more productive for the present study when their scope is widened to the level of subjective experiences, affects and relationships. A variety of methods were utilized in this study: a multi-sited participant observation in three London gyms including a small-scale analysis of gym advertisements, thirty-two semi-structured interviews with gym participants, and an analysis of online blogs and fitness handbooks. Four interrelated subject-effects of the gym were identified: first, material practices employed at gyms are tied into discourses of effectiveness and productivity through which bodies are conceptualized as open to strategic manipulation, control and power. On an affective level, this may generate feelings of mastery but also anxiety and discomfort amongst gym users. Second, gyms promote the idea that training brings about happiness, selfsatisfaction and emotional resilience. These ideas are taken up by most participants who state that they gain a greater sense of control through their gym training and feel self-contented. Third, gyms afford their users with a sense of individuality which lets them feel ‘special’. However, whilst there is a constant emphasis on members’ uniqueness in terms of their own, distinctive body and its ‘needs’, there is also the impetus to compare, contrast, to look and to be like the others which produces subtle forms of rivalry. Four, belonging to a gym expresses and affirms participants’ sense of self in a way that harmonizes with neoliberal imperatives on the self as an enterprise. The gym invites participants to be selfresponsible, self-reliant and constantly becoming.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Social Sciences, History & Philosophy > Psychosocial Studies
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2015 10:01
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2015 10:10
URI: http://bbktheses.da.ulcc.ac.uk/id/eprint/151

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