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This explores the evolution of leisure in post-industrial consumer capitalist society, specifically the relationships between work, leisure and identity. It begins by…
This explores the evolution of leisure in post-industrial consumer capitalist society, specifically the relationships between work, leisure and identity. It begins by suggesting that in contemporary society the association of leisure with freedom, autonomy, voluntarism, enjoyment and its distinction from work are all obsolete. In doing so, it uses ethnographic and interview data to outline how the popular cultural lifestyle sport of parkour and freerunning conforms to the contemporary values of consumer capitalism and is a product of tectonic changes in the global economy in the latter part of the twentieth century. This goes a long way to dismantle the prevailing wisdom that such forms of spatial transgression are a mode of performative resistance against contemporary capitalism.
This ethnographic chapter takes the reader into the wider lifeworlds of the ethnographic participants of this study and their entrepreneurial efforts to make a living from the increasingly commodified and sportified world of lifestyle sports. It contextualises this trend within the challenges, barriers and anxieties that surround youth transitions into adulthood in late-capitalism; the increasingly blurred line between work and leisure and the rise of ‘prosumption’ and its impact upon modes of capital accumulation.
The hegemony of neoliberal rhetoric in Western societies places an increasing emphasis on an individual’s ability to negotiate risk. The purpose of this chapter is to…
The hegemony of neoliberal rhetoric in Western societies places an increasing emphasis on an individual’s ability to negotiate risk. The purpose of this chapter is to better understand how – within this cultural context – voluntary risk-takers think about the significance of their potentially dangerous practices. My specific focus is the Chicago parkour community. Parkour is a new lifestyle sport in which practitioners use features of the urban environment (e.g., stairwells and retaining walls) as obstacles on which to climb, jump, run and vault.
Data for this project were derived from four years of participant-observation within the Chicago parkour community and semi-structured interviews with 40 participants.
I argue that the dangers encountered while practicing parkour are given social significance through the interplay of what I call rites of risk and rituals of symbolic safety. These rites and rituals provide a meaningful framework for activities that represent a threat to the self (e.g., performing a jump in which a mistake could be fatal). Further, I contrast my findings with the notion of edgework (which highlights the death-defying aspects of an activity). Members of the Chicago parkour community often downplayed the physical perils involved in their sport to highlight safety protocols. In this sense, parkour practitioners are less like “edgeworkers” and more like “hedgeworkers” – symbolically demonstrating protections taken against uncertainly (i.e., hedging one’s bets).
Like all ethnographic studies of a single field site, there are limits to generalizability. Future research should explore the connections between hedgework and other voluntary risk-taking activities (in and outside of lifestyle sports).
This chapter uses ethnographic data to explore the embodied aspects of parkour’s practice and how traceurs move around and navigate the city. It draws upon a blend of non-representational theory and Lacanian psychoanalysis to explain the attraction to parkour’s intensely embodied, effective and risk-taking practice. It then looks at how the traceurs exist in the interstices of hyper-regulated urban spaces and develop an alternative cartography of the city, which is generated from their situated knowledge and the temporal rhythms and flows in the city centre’s consumer economy. It is argued that this alternative cartography constitutes a spatio-bodily transgression that violates the hyper-regulated city’s command for its subjects to be passive bodies who accept the dominant cartography of the city geared towards consumption.
This chapter brings the book to a close by summarising the overall argument and looking to the future of commodified lifestyle sports and post-industrial cities under an ailing capitalist economy. Most importantly, it calls upon academics to abandon concepts of resistance and social scientific approaches rooted in symbolic interactionism and discursive meanings in order to return to a critical analysis of the real generative mechanisms of political economy. This chapter closes with a brief epilogue that returns to the traceurs and the parkour community in this study one year after the ethnographic fieldwork ended.
This chapter outlines the book’s rationale and approach in addition to its general argument. It introduces the reader to what the author has described as a ‘paradox’ of parkour, whereby parkour and freerunning is hyper-conformist to the values of consumer capitalism whilst its free practice is excluded and marginalised from urban space. Before offering methodological commentary on the book’s ethnographic approach and outlining the structure of the book, it looks how this paradox is a product of late-capitalism’s own making – making reference to processes of deindustrialisation, neoliberalism and the rise of consumer capitalism.
This chapter provides an overview and introduction to the book’s theoretical framework which is rooted in ultra-realist criminology theory and transcendental materialism’s…
This chapter provides an overview and introduction to the book’s theoretical framework which is rooted in ultra-realist criminology theory and transcendental materialism’s innovative conceptualisation of subjectivity. The chapter outlines both of these perspectives and how they differ from existing criminological theory in order to explore both how and why individuals in contemporary society are so committed to the values, symbols and identities of consumer capitalism. The chapter then employs this theoretical framework to problematise and deconstruct the dominant conceptualisation of parkour as a mode of performative resistance, by drawing upon theoretical ideas such as precorporation, the reversal of ideology and interpassivity.
In this chapter the author discusses some insights lost in a lost ethnomethodological study of parkour. The author introduces parkour, before critically engaging with some…
In this chapter the author discusses some insights lost in a lost ethnomethodological study of parkour. The author introduces parkour, before critically engaging with some of the existing theoretical treatments of the practice. The author then considers some of the materials drawn on by those existing studies in reconsidering what is getting done in ‘parkour talk’. In further outlining what was lost, the author considers some of the aspects of the study that would have positioned parkour in terms of its engaging ordinariness. The chapter concludes with a summary of these avenues of inquiry and closes with a plea for the continued recognition of basic social inquiry and ethnography.
This chapter draws upon ethnographic observation and walking interviews with private security staff to offer in-depth insight into the hyper-regulation of the city and the…
This chapter draws upon ethnographic observation and walking interviews with private security staff to offer in-depth insight into the hyper-regulation of the city and the lived dynamics of parkour’s inconsistent inclusion and exclusion from urban space. This chapter argues that the street-level governance of urban space is largely incoherent, fractured and characterised by a myriad of conflicting spatial interests. As neoliberalism has privatised and fractured the city into a series of microspheres of spatial sovereignty, there is a lack of any notion of the common urban good; therefore, what should be allowed and prohibited from urban space. This is a manifestation of the broader trend towards post-political forms of governance. It is argued that the confusion and contradiction that surrounds what city spaces should be for actively contributed to the forms of spatial compromise developed between private security and the traceurs.
This chapter offers a theoretical appraisal of our contemporary hyper-regulated urban spaces situated against a backdrop of deindustrialisation, the shift to consumer economies and the rise of the creative city paradigm. While existing work has characterised urban space as dead and asocial spaces bereft of life. This chapter opts to think our city centres as ‘Zombie Cities’: cities which have been eviscerated the social but are forced to wear the exterior signs of life through the injection of economically productive but artificial modes of culture and creativity. This sets the stage for explaining why parkour is inconsistently included and excluded from urban space, and how it attains spatio-economically contingent legitimacy and inclusion into urban space that problematises existing theoretical perspectives around a revanchist urbanism.