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Forging Elite Fitness: CrossFit and the Biopolitical Imperatives of Health, Becoming, and Female Muscularity

  • Author(s): Yaniga, Anne
  • Advisor(s): Bernal, Victoria
  • Lazo, Rodrigo
  • et al.
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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License
Abstract

This Dissertation analyzes the findings of a two-year ethnography of an American CrossFit community. CrossFit is a world-wide sport and fitness brand, with over 13,500 franchised fitness affiliates around the world and an annual sporting competition: The CrossFit Games. While CrossFit is beginning to become the subject of some ethnographic research, there has yet to be published a long-term in-depth ethnographic study of a CrossFit community and its participants. Research questions investigated how and why an increasing number of American women are seeking larger and stronger muscularity, how neoliberal discourses of health are internalized and enacted at the level of individuals and communities, and what role fitness plays within processes of subjectification under late capitalism. This study, which includes participant observation, 37 interviews, and a body-idealization survey, reveals three major findings of great significance affecting theories and embodied practices of neoliberal discourses of health, the self as a project, and ideal femininity, all within the ideological framework of Biopower (Foucault; Hardt and Negri) and the Biopolitics of neoliberal capitalism. Key findings include the following: 1) CrossFit discourses of health align with neoliberal ideologies of Healthism (Crawford) while also exceeding these ideologies, 2) the primary motivation of individual CrossFit participants is the pursuit of meaning-making and purpose through processes of perpetual becoming, self-realization and self-care via the self as a project, which is accelerated through collective effervescence (Durkheim), and 3) female muscularity is greatly encouraged and valorized, within new limits that also enable some forms of agency and resistance.

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This item is under embargo until March 11, 2021.