Pumping Irony: Crisis and Contradiction in Bodybuilding

in Sociology of Sport Journal

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Alan M. KleinNortheastern University

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While the projection of ideal images is very important in American culture, it is in the subculture and sport of bodybuilding that it gets carried to the extreme. A 4-year study of bodybuilding’s mecca—Southern California—revealed a fundamental set of discrepancies between what the subculture projects as ideal and what actually goes on. These discrepancies are examined to determine which ones result from changes that have taken place in body-building and which are structural to it. It is shown that as the sport/subculture altered its image to achieve cultural respectability, it inadvertently created new problems. The shifts are examined within the context of studies of deviance and point to the need for long-term ethnography in sport sociology.

Direct all correspondence to Alan M. Klein, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, Northeastern University, 360 Huntington, Ave., Boston, MA 02115.
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