- The Global Gym: Gender, Health and Pedagogies by J. Andreasson and T. Johansson
The body in late modernity is an insufficient one. It needs enhancement, augmentation, strengthening, aesthetic improvement, or other forms of optimization. Fitness is, among other types of anthropotechnics, a popular area of practice and ideological field where general improvement seems to be reachable, as P. Sloterdijk has shown in his book Du musst dein Leben ändern. Über Anthropotechniken (Suhrkamp, 2012).
Fitness has within the last four decades become a “global industry,” argue the Swedish sport scientists Andreasson and Johansson in their study The Global Gym, with a volume of sales of about 75.7 billion dollars per year, with 153.000 fitness clubs, and with 131.7 million club members (2013). These numbers indicate the importance of the fitness phenomenon and justify a systematic scientific analysis of the modern fitness culture and also its historic development.
Sport and globalization have become a large topic in recent social-scientific studies. But most of them focus on global sports like football or mega-sport events like the Olympic Games. The spread of the Western fitness and body regime over the globe has not been well investigated.
Andreasson and Johansson present a kind of balance of more than fifteen years of research in fitness cultures. They have assembled several earlier published works and adapt and upgrade them for this book. The subtitle “Gender, Health and Pedagogies” illustrates the main foci of the study.
Global Gym analyzes the modern gym and fitness culture under three specific perspectives. First, the gym is examined as a site of learning, as a space determined by a specific kind of knowledge and expertise that shapes the practice of participants and fitness professionals. Second, the construction of gender within the fitness culture is examined (chapter 5). Third, the authors show how “physical activity, health, and bodies are gradually drawn into a global sphere of interest” (3). Most important is the question of how the experts (coaches or athletes) constitute themselves as subjects through bodily exercising: “When people act/perform, they learn. They gain experience in relation to their surroundings, and in this way they also develop an understanding of themselves, what they can do, and how others perceive them” (7).
The theoretical framework consists of social constructionist approaches to knowledge and knowledge production and of elements of praxeological theories. Hermeneutical and ethnographical methods are used, combined with discourse analysis. The data consist of texts or images taken from analog or digital mass media like Internet blogs; in addition, many interviews are analyzed in depth.
Besides an introduction and conclusion, the book is subdivided into six sections. Chapter two, “Historical and Contemporary Perspectives,” will be of special interest to (sport) historians. In a short overview, the authors sketch out a few main aspects of the development [End Page 238] of the history of body building and fitness sports and discuss some key persons like Eugen Sandow, Charles Atlas, “Joe” Weider, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jane Fonda. The history of female body building also receives a special focus. The phenomenon that the authors call the “fitness revolution” initiated in the year 1968 with Kenneth Cooper’s book Aerobic and its invasion into the American and European middle classes form another focus of this chapter. Using the example of Japan, the authors show how the American-shaped physical fitness movement was adapted to the specific conditions and values of Japanese society.
Chapter three takes a close look at the pedagogy in the fitness industry. At the center of the research are the professional fitness instructors and their role in an already standardized global fitness industry. It is, for example, asked what pedagogical strategies the instructors have to maintain distance in the sometimes intimate contact with their customers.
Chapter four focuses on how bodybuilders learn about their body and how knowledge “within” the body is created. Chapters six and seven illustrate many manifestations of health care and beauty but also doping-related techniques and even plastic surgery.