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Title: The 'subject-effects' of gyms : studying the interactional, sociospatial and performative order of the fitness site
Author: Doğan, Ceren
ISNI:       0000 0004 5371 8104
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available