Accepted paper:

Class, conspicuous perspiration and the pursuit of fitness in Mozambique

Author:

Julie Soleil Archambault (Concordia University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the growing popularity of fitness and the formation of middle class subjectivities in Mozambique, and reflects on how the globalisation of fitness is inspiring new ways of being and relating that are driven by a combination of health and aesthetic concerns.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the growing popularity of fitness and the formation of middle class subjectivities in Mozambique, and reflects on how the globalisation of fitness is inspiring new ways of being and relating that are driven by a combination of health and aesthetic concerns. What makes the growing popularity of fitness anthropologically intriguing is that, on the one hand, fatness in Mozambique is seen by many not only as aesthetically and sensuously pleasing, but also as a marker of entangled ideals of health, wealth and connectedness; and, on the other, that people generally try to outsource sweat-inducing activities as best they can. Indeed, if wealth and status have commonly translated into particular kinds of bodies—bodies that can accumulate fat and bodies that can avoid sweating—the globalisation of fitness is provoking a redefinition of the articulation between social class and the body, and more specifically between two important bodily substances, namely sweat and fat. I argue that the gym—a relatively new and increasingly significant urban enclave—offers more than a mere platform for the performance of middle classness by showing how the appeal of fitness lies, in part at least, in its transgressive potential. The paper is based on ongoing ethnographic research in the cities of Inhambane and Maputo, and focuses on the experiences of older women who were initially drawn to fitness for weight-related health issues.

panel Anth08
Urban enclaves and the middle class