University of Tasmania
whole_StrangerMarkJamesAnthony2001_thesis.pdf (19.42 MB)

Risk-taking & postmodernity : commodification & the ecstatic in leisure lifestyles : the case of surfing

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posted on 2023-05-27, 12:29 authored by Stranger, MJA
The thesis is a study of surfing in Australia. It examines the surfing subculture and its relationship with the dominant culture; the risk-taking orientation of its bodily practices and the role they play in the construction of individual and group identity and social formations; and the multidimensional relationships between the surfing culture industry, surfing's sports bureaucracy, bodily practices, social configurations and subcultural integrity. The study is based on the hypothesis that the surfing subculture in Australia is a distinctly postmodern configuration but one which displays a level of stability not accounted for in postmodern theory. It informs current debates over the nature of the self and society in post-modernity. The scope of the research was national because previous studies of surfing, both in Australia and the USA, suffered from too narrow a scope; either focusing on one sector or geographic area. The breadth of this study enabled coverage of all sectors, geographic types, and forms of surfing subculture in Australia. Participant observation was undertaken during a ten month field trip to 15 surfing locations, covering all States and surfing location types. The observations were supplemented by recorded interviews with 31 key people, 129 questionnaires administered at 16 specific surfing sites, and an analysis of the surfing media and other documentation. The thesis concludes that post-modernity provides an environment in which the self can become anchored in the shared transcendent experience of bodily practice, which forms the basis of stable social formations. Through interaction with the sublime in nature, the self 'experiences itself' in communion with the world. This transcendence is both a loss of self and an expanded sense of self, whereby subject and object merge in ecstatic experience. The shared knowledge of ecstatic experience constitutes a conscience collectif which underpins the subculture's social formations at the local and global level. The surfing culture industry mediates the experience across the world in images, text and symbolic form. Local neo-tribal formations reinforce the ecstatic experience through their hyper commodified culture and their sociality. Their structure promotes the hyper individualistic pursuit of ecstatic experience and constitutes a self-perpetuating social configuration whereby these reflexive communities are constantly reconstructed through bodily practice. This aesthetic reflexivity provides a bulwark against alienating bureaucratization and fosters a form of competitive surfing which further reinforces the foundational experience.


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Copyright 2001 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 2001. Includes bibliographical references

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