Document Type

Theses, Ph.D

Rights

This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only

Disciplines

Business and Management.

Publication Details

Successfully submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) to the Dublin Institute of Technology, 2012.

Abstract

Although our imagination as policy-makers, legislators, academics, and members of the general public has been captured by the promise of fitness, what is meant by it and whether or not its individualising emphasis is a good thing is much less clear. In response to this question of cultural significance, this thesis provides a phenomenology of fitness. It does so in two important senses and in the context of two distinct parts.
The first half of this thesis (Chapters One and Two) is given to the task of bracketing the natural attitude with respect to fitness; that is, contextualising the question of its cultural embeddedness within processes of reflexive embodiment that are at play in modern society. “Being fit,” it is argued in this context, implies “being fit for something” (something other than health) or “being fit for someone” (someone other than oneself). And, having lost some (if not all) of its modernist illusions and its progressivist convictions to social regeneration, the task of “being fit” is framed as an ambivalent one, akin to the modern-day Sisyphus, and gestural of the self-reflexivity inherent in late-modern consumer society.
By shifting the organisation of attention from ambivalence, the second half ofthis thesis (Chapters Three and Four) examines the possibilities for a positive appropriation of fitness beyond mere consumption activity. By focusing on fitness at the level of action and interaction (where meaning relates to use and practice) the second half of this thesis opens up the possibilities for a re-description of fitness (of Sisyphus) on the basis of the following proposition: fitness is something we negotiate, despite it being something we never really achieve. Findings from twelve elaborative phenomenological interviews emanating from an ethnographic orientation over a two and a half year period are given towards this end. They indicate that this thesis (Chapters Three and Four) examines the possibilities for a positive appropriation of fitness beyond mere consumption activity. By focusing on fitness at the level of action and interaction (where meaning relates to use and practice) the second half of this thesis opens up the possibilities for a re-description of fitness (of Sisyphus) on the basis of the following proposition: fitness is something we negotiate, despite it being something we never really achieve. Findings from twelve elaborative phenomenological interviews emanating from an ethnographic orientation over a two and a half year period are given towards this end. They indicate that consigning fitness to mere consumption activity overlooks the importance of participants’ meaning-making activities, their motivations, and the pleasures that accrue on the basis of ongoing activity and increased experience. They indicate that, if “doing fitness” enables individuals to become acquainted with these internal goods, then “being someone through fitness” can operate as an indexical marker of virtue.
The possibilities for a Complemental Model of Health and fitness and for a novel approach to talking about the fit body are discussed in conclusion (Chapter Five) and in the context of aligning the findings of this thesis to future research and practice.

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