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Pirkko Markula

Is sport art? Is dance a sport? Such questions are asked on the pages of social media as well as on the pages of research journals. Debating whether dancers are athletes or sport has aesthetic qualities can reveal broader issues regarding the current health conscious, competitive, and commercialized (neo-liberal) culture: What do dance and sport do when they intersect in the larger operations of power that currently favor particular kinds of physical activity participation and representation? In this paper, I map various intersections of sport and dance first through sport philosophical debates about the aesthetic qualities of sport. Second, I examine what happens when competition is introduction to ballroom dance in the formation of DanceSport. Finally, I depict how dance and sport become intertwined as entertainment in reality television shows Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.

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Pirkko Markula

The new material turn in social sciences and humanities has drawn attention to how the material interacts with the social in the world where both human and non-human actors produce power relations. To include the material objects and their environments within the social analysis, new materialists argue for a new onto-epistemology that departs from the humanist social constructionism. To explore what this might mean for sport sociologists, I discuss three themes characterizing the new materialism: the focus on processes of materiality, post-humanist tools needed to engage with the material processes, and post-qualitative research methodologies and ways of representation that include the material world. I advocate studying the body in motion as a unique focus for socio-cultural scholars of physical activity who can connect the material with the social into research that matters in the contemporary world.

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Pirkko Markula

There has been a longstanding divide between the sociology and psychology of exercise despite common interests in individual subjectivity and identity construction through exercise practices. In this paper, I aim to find possible intersections for the two disciplines by using theoretical insights from discursive and critical psychology as well as sociocultural research on embodied experiences in exercise. Drawing from both psychological and sociocultural research on exercising bodies, I problematize different conceptualizations of subjectivity, identity, and power relations to critically examine interconnections between these different research traditions. I also highlight some of their theoretical limitations to suggest further theoretical readings that might enhance interdisciplinary analyses of change emanating from the microlevel of individual actions by both psychological and sociocultural research on the physically active body.

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Pirkko Markula

This paper aims to reconstruct the cultural dialogue surrounding the female body image in aerobics. To do this I have used several methods: ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and media analysis. I found that the media ideal is a contradiction: firm but shapely, fit but sexy, strong but thin. Likewise, women’s relationships with the media image are contradictory: They struggle to obtain the ideal body, but they also find their battles ridiculous. I interpret my findings from a Foucaultian perspective to show how the discourse surrounding the female body image is part of a complex use of power over women in postmodern consumer society. In addition, I assume a feminist perspective that assigns an active role to the individual aerobicizers to question the power arrangement.

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Pirkko Markula

Following Michel Foucault, feminist sport scholars have demonstrated how women’s physical activity can act as a technology of domination that anchors women into a discoursive web of normalizing practices. There has been less emphasis on Foucault’s later work that focuses on the individual’s role of changing the practices of domination. Foucault argues that human beings turn themselves into subjects through what he labels “the technologies of the self.” While his work is not gender specific, some feminists have seen the technologies of the self as a possibility to reconceptualize the self, agency and resistance in feminist theory and politics. In this paper, I aim to examine what Foucault’s technologies of self can offer feminists in sport studies. I begin by reviewing applications of Foucault’s technology of the self to analyses of women’s physical activity. I will next locate the technologies of the self within Foucault’s theory of power, self and ethics to further reflect how valuable this concept can be for feminist sport studies.

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Pirkko Markula

This article explores the application of Michel Foucault’s technologies of the self—practices of freedom that are characterized by ethics of self-care, critical awareness, and aesthetic self-stylization. Foucault’s argument states that the technologies of self can act as practices of freedom from disciplinary, discursive body practices. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this study examines the intersections of Foucault’s theory with commercial fitness practices to identify possibilities for changing the dominant, feminine body discourse. The focus is on fitness practices collectively defined as mindful fitness and specifically one hybrid mindfulfitness form that combines Pilates, yoga, and Tai Chi with western strength training. Through in-depth interviews with the instructors of this hybrid form, this study analyzes the possibilities for mindful fitness to act as a practice of freedom by detailing what can be meant by critically aware, self-stylized fitness professionals for whom ethical care of the self translates to ethical care of the others.

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Pirkko Markula

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Judy Liao and Pirkko Markula

In November 2010, the US media reported that basketball player Diana Taurasi tested positive for a banned substance while playing in Turkey. In this study, we explore the media coverage of Taurasi’s positive drug test from a Deleuzian perspective. We consider the media coverage as an assemblage (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987; Malins, 2004) to analyze how Taurasi’s drug using body is articulated with the elite female sporting body in the coverage of her doping incident (Markula, 2004; Wise, 2011). Our analysis demonstrates that Taurasi’s position as a professional basketball player in the US dominated the discussion to legitimize her exoneration of banned substance use. In addition, Turkey, its “amateur” sport and poor drug control procedure, was located to the periphery to normalize a certain type of professionalism, doping control, and body as the desirable elements of sporting practice.