Bodies on the Spot. Commercialization and Performative Rationalization Among Italian Runners

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Roberta SASSATELLI, University of Milan, Italy
Fabio Massimo LO VERDE, University of Palermo, Italy
This paper addresses the interface between sport and fitness, considering that commercialization has worked in two directions: while competitive, professional sport is becoming a global media phenomenon, with increasingly global and yet fragmented audiences, ordinary sport practice is being individualized in the Global North and shaped by the logic of therapeutic leisure. The latter has given way to the diffusion of a variety of active leisure activities aiming at providing individual consumers meaningful experiences of body transformation as well as health and fitness Apps apparently extending consumers’ self-surveillance capacities. Based on semi-structured interviews with runners in two Italian cities, from the North and the South of the country, we explore how running practices and relevant Apps function as commercial disciplinary body techniques. Looking at runners’ fitness and sport scripts and exploring how they use Apps to assist in training, we show that these devices take on some of the functions previously carried out by trainers, both further individualizing sporting and fitness practices, and allowing for the construction of relevant online communities. We analyze the variety of fitness and sport scripts collected on the backdrop of the broader discourse on active leisure, and consider how these interface with commercialization and market culture. We further discuss the emotional code which are deployed by runners in managing their running practices and illustrate their increasingly rationalized modes of relation with their bodies. The paper proposes that spectacularizing and individualizing self-surveillance are the staple of running practices as monitored through running Apps, and shows how gamification of practice situates running at the crossroad of fitness and sport practice colluding towards the increasing performative rationalization of active leisure consumers.