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Parkour in the City: Neuroanthropology, Stress and Environmental Adaptation

Delivered for third year anthropology students…. Enjoy!

LECTURE SECTIONS

Section 1: The three-factor model – 1:52
Section 2: Introducing parkour – 6:44
Section 3: The City as a human niche – 14:10
Section 4: The Super-basic Neurology of stress – 22:37
Section 5: Super-basic Epigenetic effects – 28:43
Section 6: Stressful Cities – 35:14
Section 7: Parkour as cultural adaptation – 43:18

Because this lecture presents some 5 years of PhD research and 3 years of subsequent work to an undergraduate audience some generalization was essential to getting the material to fit inside the 50 minute time-slot.
While critique and feedback is always welcome, please consider the requirements of the format and the related time restrictions.

Video Credits, with thanks to respective creators:
Storm Freerun – UNBOUND (Trailer) – Storm Productions
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QMeM…
Speed Air Man – David Belle
Homepage: https://www.youtube.com/user/davbelle
Trace Elements Parkour 2008 – Trace elements
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKPD6…
Port Lincoln Parkour Trip 2015 – South Australian Parkour Association
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TRz3…

Copyright to Alex Pavlotski, 2017
Please feel free to contact the author on a.pavotski(at)gmail.com

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RAPED: A Male Survivor Breaks His Silence

RAPED: A Male Survivor Breaks His Silence (1995)

By: Fred Pelka

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Editorial Note: I did not write this. I read this a long time ago, in my undergraduate years, and it was powerful then. With time it has become only more powerful. All of the issues mentioned here are more pressing now that ever before and this story is not one that should be hidden away behind academic paywalls. This is a dose of reality that we really need. Please read and share.

– AP

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The man who raped me had a remarkable self assurance which could only have come from practice. He picked me up just outside Cleveland, heading east in a van filled with construction equipment. That early morning in May I’d already spent a sleepless 24 hours trying to hitchhike from Oxford, Mississippi to Buffalo, New York, so it felt good when I was offered a ride through the western fringe of Pennsylvania. First, though, the driver told me he needed to stop along the way, to pick up some building supplies. We drove to a country club undergoing renovation, where I hung out with his co-workers while he signed for several boxes of equipment which we carried back to his van. Getting back onto the turnpike he told me about one more stop he had to make.

As a man, I’ve been socialized never to admit to being vulnerable, to discuss those moments when I wasn’t in control. I know also how women and children are routinely punished when they speak out about abuse, how they are blamed for their own victimization. The examples are endless: Witness the contempt with which Anita Hill was treated. For these reasons and more I’m still reticent, years after it happened, to recount what happened to me that day in Ohio. This article marks the first time in 15 years I have publicly discussed it under my own name. The second building seemed deserted. We went up a flight of stairs, down a corridor into a side room. I looked around for the equipment he’d mentioned, and noticed him locking the door behind us. He slugged me before I could react, forced me down with his hands around my throat. As I began to lose consciousness I heard him say, “If you scream, if you make one wrong move, I’ll kill you.”

The police told me later that the man who raped me was a suspect in the rapes of at least six other young men.

The police told me later that the man who raped me was a suspect in the rapes of at least six other young men. During the assault his mood swung from vicious, when he promised to strangle me or break my neck, to self-pity, when he wept because we were both among “the wounded ones.” In that enormous calm that comes after the acceptance of death, I wondered who would find my body.

Most rapes don’t happen like this. Most victims know their attacker(s) — he is a neighbor, friend, husband, or father, a teacher, minister or doctor. The vast majority of rapes are committed by men against women and children, and the FBI estimates that anywhere from 80 to 90 percent go unreported. Rape is an integral part of our culture, and fully one third of all women in this country will be raped at some point in their lives. But this sexist violence does occasionally spill over onto boys and men. The National Crime Survey for 1989 estimated that one in 12 rape survivors is male.

For all this, nobody really knows how many men are raped each year, or how many boys are sexually abused. One study at the University of New Hampshire found that one in 11 young men surveyed had been sexually abused before their 18th birthday. I’ve seen articles which speculate that anywhere from one in nine to one in seven men will be raped or sexually abused in their lifetime, most often by other males, but these are little more than guesses.

“Since rape is generally misconstrued to be a sexually motivated crime,” writes Dr. A. Nicholas Groth and Anne Wolbert Burgess, “it is generally assumed that males are unlikely targets of such victimization, and then when it does occur, it reflects a homosexual orientation on the part of the offender. However, the causes of male rape that we have had an opportunity to study do not lend much support to either assumption.” Groth and Burgess interviewed men in the community who had been raped, and men who admitted to raping other men, and published their findings in the American Journal of Psychiatry. In half the cases they studied, the gender of the victim “did not appear to be of specific significance” to the rapist. “Their victims included males and females, adults and children,” and “may symbolize…something they want to conquer or defeat. The assault is an act of retaliation, an expression of power, and an assertion of their strength or manhood.”

In half the cases they studied, the gender of the victim “did not appear to be of specific significance” to the rapist. “Their victims included males and females, adults and children,” and “may symbolize…something they want to conquer or defeat. The assault is an act of retaliation, an expression of power, and an assertion of their strength or manhood.”

In their article, Burgess and Groth dispute some of the prevalent myths about male rape. The first is that men simply don’t get raped, at least not outside prison. Of course, if men don’t get raped then what happened to me either wasn’t rape (the police asking, “Did you come?”), or I’m not a man (my male friends wanting to know how I could “let something like this” happen to me). The second myth — that all men who are raped or rape other men are gay—is a product of our culture’s homophobia, and our ignorance of the realities of sexual violence. Most people find it difficult to understand why a straight man would rape another straight man. But if you see rape as a way of exerting control, of confirming your own power by disempowering others, then it makes perfect sense. If it makes you feel powerful and macho to force sex on a woman or child, think of how much more powerful you feel raping another man.

“I have a special place,” the man who raped me said after a long while. “It’s out in the country, where we can make all the noise we want.” It seemed obvious what would happen to me once we arrived at “his special place,” but I knew there was no hope for my survival as long as we stayed in that room. So I agreed to go with him to “the country.” I promised not to try to escape. It is perhaps an indication of his fragile hold on reality that he believed me.

We walked back to his van and drove away. I waited until I saw some people, then jumped as we slowed to make a turn, rolling as I hit the pavement. I ran into the nearest building — a restaurant — just as patrons were finishing their lunch. Conversation stopped, and I was confronted by a roomful of people, forks raised in mid-bite, staring.

“I think you’d better call the police,” I told the waitress. This was all I could say, placing my hands flat on the counter between us to control their trembling. She poured me a cup of black coffee. And then the police arrived.

The two detectives assigned to my case conformed to the standard good cop^ad cop archetype. The good cop told me how upset he’d seen “girls” become after being raped. “But you’re a man, this shouldn’t bother you.” Later on he told me that the best thing to do would be to pull up my pants “and forget it ever happened.” The bad cop asked me why my hair was so long, what was I doing hitchhiking at seven o’clock in the morning? Why were my clothes so dirty? Did I do drugs? Was I a troublemaker?

I used to be puzzled at how the bad cop obviously didn’t believe me, in spite of the fact that, by his own account, in the months before my assault six other men had come to him with similar stories. Then I heard of the Dahmer case in Milwaukee, how in May 1991 Dahmer’s neighbors saw him chasing a naked 14year-old boy, bleeding from the anus, through the alley behind their building. The responding officers returned the boy to Dahmer’s apartment, where Dahmer explained that this was just a lover’s spat, which the police believed in spite of the youth’s apparent age, and the photos scattered on Dahmer’s floor of murdered and mutilated boys and men. The police reassured a neighbor who called again, saying that everything was all right — this at the very moment Dahmer was murdering Konerak Sinthasomphone. Afterwards Dahmer dismembered Sinthasomphone’s body.

411fd9_048fa7b0f43d433e8a7a1164503fb397~mv2.jpgKonerak Sinthasomphone (1976-1991)

Sinthasomphone was one of at least 17 boys and men raped and murdered by Dahmer, their body parts stored in vats and freezers in his apartment. It was reported that his first assaults were committed in Ohio, so I had to brace myself before I could look at Jeffrey Dahmer’s photo in the paper. At first I was relieved to find that he was not the man who raped me. Then I thought how this meant my assailant is likely still out there, looking for more “wounded ones.”

Because I gave them such detailed information — the country club, the name painted on the side of his van — the detectives were able to locate my assailant not too many hours after I was brought into their precinct. The good cop asked, after I identified the rapist, whether I wanted to press charges. He explained how I’d have to return to Ohio to appear before a grand jury, and then return again for the trial, how the newspapers would publish my name, how little chance there was of a conviction.

“He says you seduced him,” the good cop said. “So it’s your word against his.” The bad cop glared at me when I told them there was no way I wanted any of this to be made public. “You mean,” he fumed, “I wasted my whole afternoon on this shit?” Standing in front of me with an expression of disgust, he asked, “How do you think this makes me feel?”

By then it was getting dark. I hitchhiked the remaining 200 miles home, studying every movement of every man who offered me a ride. I arrived at my apartment after midnight, walking the last 10 miles.

In the weeks that followed the assault, every stupid, insensitive thing I’d ever said about rape came back to haunt me. A friend of mine had been attacked several months earlier, also while hitchhiking. She told me just a few hours after it happened how she’d missed her bus, and didn’t want to be late to work. She said the man offering her a lift seemed normal enough, even “nice.”

“You should’ve waited for the next bus,” I lectured. Today I cringe at my arrogance. Hitchhiking, like walking alone after dark, or feeling safe on a date, at work, at home, is another perquisite to which only men are entitled. How dare she not understand the limits of her freedom?

While women tell me that the possibility of rape is never far from their minds, most men never give it a first, let alone a second, thought. This may explain why they react so negatively to accounts by male survivors. To see rape as “a women’s issue” is a form of male privilege most men would prefer not to surrender. They would rather believe that they can move with immunity through the toxic atmosphere of violence and fear they and their compatriots create. Being a male survivor meant I’d lost some of that immunity. No wonder I felt as if I’d been poisoned, as if I were drowning.

For years I pretended, as per the good cop’s recommendation, that nothing had happened, secretly feeling that I was somehow responsible, somehow less masculine. The turning point came with the media storm that swirled up around the Big Dan rape in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The movie “The Accused” is based on that incident — a woman assaulted in a bar while other men looked on and cheered. Naive as I was, I figured this was a pretty clear-cut case. Where the police might have doubted my will to resist (no broken bones, no massive lacerations), here was a victim overpowered by half a dozen men. How could anyone doubt that she had been brutalized? Yet, during the trial, The Boston Herald ran the front page headline “SHE LED US ON!” I realized then that, even had I been murdered, someone would have inevitably questioned my complicity: “He probably liked rough sex.”

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Spreading doubt: Meme circulated online 2013-2016

It’s just this sort of victim-blaming that discourages survivors from reporting their trauma, or seeking treatment, but there are other factors which may discourage males in particular. Homophobia for one: The sort of gender McCarthyism that labels any man a faggot who cannot or will not conform to accepted norms of masculine feeling or behavior. Men who rape other men capitalize on this, knowing that straight victims don’t want to appear gay, and gay victims might fear coming out of the closet. Groth and Burgess report, for instance, that “a major strategy used by some offenders…is to get the victim to ejaculate.” This “strategy” was attempted in roughly half the cases they studied, and in half of those the rapist succeeded in ejaculating his victim. This confuses the victim, who often misidentifies ejaculation with orgasm. It confirms for the rapist the old canard about how victims “really want it.” And, as Groth and Burgess say, it leaves the survivor “discouraged from reporting the assault for fear his sexuality may be suspect.”

For male survivors of child sexual abuse there is also the unfortunate theory that boys who are abused inevitably grow up to be men who rape. One survivor told me it was for this reason he had decided never to be a father. Not that he’d ever wanted to abuse children, nor was there any evidence he ever would. He eventually came to realize that because some rapists are themselves survivors doesn’t mean that all male survivors of child sexual abuse turn out to be rapists. Finally, rape-crisis centers, the only institutions in our society founded expressly to help rape survivors, are identified by some men as hotbeds of feminism, and many men take “feminist” to mean “man-hating.” It’s true that the vast majority of rape crisis counselors are women, that the entire stop-rape movement is an extension of the women’s movement. For the record, though, I have never felt any hostility in response when calling a rape crisis center, this in spite of the fact that RCCs are often plagued by “hotline abusers” — men who call to masturbate to the sound of a female voice.

Finally, rape-crisis centers, the only institutions in our society founded expressly to help rape survivors, are identified by some men as hotbeds of feminism, and many men take “feminist” to mean “man-hating.” It’s true that the vast majority of rape crisis counselors are women, that the entire stop-rape movement is an extension of the women’s movement.

On the other hand, I’ve run across a good deal of hostility towards women from male survivors with whom I’ve talked. One man told me how certain he was that the counselors at his local RCC hated men, even though, by his own admission, he’d never called, and knew no one who had. A while back I attended a survivors’ conference organized by a Boston women’s group, attended by several hundred women and maybe a dozen men. One of these men stood up during a plenary session to shout at the women on the podium. As an incest survivor, he said, he felt “marginalized” and “oppressed” by the way the conference was run, despite the fact that a number of the workshops were specifically geared toward males, and that a keynote speaker received a standing ovation when he described his work with boys and men. Some male survivors even blame women for the denial and homophobia they encounter after their assault. They openly resent the (pitifully few) resources available to female survivors, as if any help women receive is at the expense of men. Even Geraldo has picked up this theme: His show on male survivors ended with an attack on rape crisis centers for their alleged refusal to acknowledge male victimization.

This hostility has been exacerbated by the so-called men’s movement, the Robert Bly/mythopoetic crowd, with their “Wild Man” and “Inner Warrior” archetypes. These men say a lot of absurd things about sexual violence, not the least of which is that “just as many men get raped as women.” This last statement is often repeated by Chris Harding, editor of Wingspan, which The Boston Globe calls “the bible of the new men’s movement.” Harding is generally quick to add that most of these rapes “occur in prison” — a statement which is as inaccurate as it is pernicious, assuming as it does that a disproportionate number of male rapes are committed by working-class and minority men. The men’s movement claims that rape is a “gender-neutral issue,” and thus has nothing to do with sexism.

What is ironic about all this is that what little acknowledgement there is of male victimization generally comes from the women’s stop-rape movement. To the extent that male survivors can tell their stories, it is because of the foundation laid by feminists. So this woman-bashing is as ungrateful as it is gratuitous.

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Misplaced Anger: Meme circulated by a ‘Men’s Rights’ Advocacy group.

One source of confusion appears to be the distinction between victimization and oppression. Male survivors charge that feminists see rape as a “man vs. woman” issue, emphasizing the central role male violence plays in stunting and destroying women’s lives, and they’re right. The distinction is that while many women, and some men, are victimized by rape, all women are oppressed by it, and any victimization of women occurs in a context of oppression most men simply do not understand. Rape for men is usually a bizarre, outrageous tear in the fabric of reality. For women, rape is often a confirmation of relative powerlessness, of men’s contempt for women, and its trauma is reinforced every day in a thousand obvious and subtle ways.

For myself, I don’t need for rape to be gender neutral to feel validated as a male survivor. And I certainly don’t need to denigrate women, or to attack feminists, to explain why I was abused by the (male) police, ridiculed by my (male) friends, and marginalized by the (male dominated) society around me. It is precisely because we have been “reduced” to the status of women that other men find us so difficult to deal with. It was obvious to me at the police station that I was held in contempt because I was a victim — feminine, hence perceived as less masculine. Had I been an accused criminal, even a rapist, chances are I would have been treated with more respect, because I would have been seen as more of a man. To cross that line, to become victims of the violence which works to circumscribe the lives of women, marks us somehow as traitors to our gender. Being a male rape survivor means I no longer fit our culture’s neat but specious definition of masculinity, as one empowered, one always in control. Rather than continue to deny our experience, male survivors need to challenge that definition.

As Diana E.H. Russell says in The Politics of Rape, “Women must start talking about rape: Their experiences, their fears, their thoughts. The silence about rape must be broken.

The same must be true for men. And so I offer this article as my first contribution to that effort.

I’ve been back to northern Ohio exactly once in the 15 years following that day. Seven years ago I was traveling from Boston to Chicago with a car full of friends. It was early morning, and I was sleeping in the back seat when we pulled off the highway, and steered onto a street that looked oddly, disturbingly familiar. Rubbing my eyes, I felt an unsettling sense of deja vu. And then I remembered. “Time for some coffee,” the driver said, and I wondered then if we would eat breakfast at that same restaurant, if I would meet that same waitress. We didn’t, and I chose not to tell my companions what had happened to me all those years ago.

Today I think I might be less disconcerted. Today I think I just might have told them what happened.

Originally published (1995) in Patricia Searles and Ronald J. Berger, [eds.] Rape and Society, by: San Francisco: Westview.

Further Reading

A Reply to Lauren Southern’s “Why I’m not a Feminist” by Jenna Christian in Everyday Geopolitics Huston (2015)
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Men’s rights activists, gathering to discuss all the ways society has done them wrong by Monica Hesse in The Washington Post (2013)

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I Was a Men’s Rights Activist by: Edwin Hodge in MEL Magazine (2016)

The best thing to come out of Brexit and the Trump victory [and some music]

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Stupid, stupid, people. A denial of democracy isn’t authoritarianism. It’s complacency. The democratic slogan for every election should be “if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

I posted the above on social media the day after the outcome of the American election was publicized, and since then I feel increasingly like I need to clarify this post. The conversations that post sparked made it seem as if people think that I was arguing that low voter turnout was the only issue that decided the outcome of the Trump/Clinton race.

Fact is, many people reacted this way tells us something about how people are thinking. It seems like everyone wants this whole election outcome to be pinned down by one explanation. It was the media; it was Russian intervention; it was middle class discontentment; lies; corruption; a grand conspiracy.

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Voter participation is an issue, and it was certainly a factor. But it is far from the only factor. Democratic engagement with politics and vote value have been a hobby horse of mine for years since being exposed to the alternative first hand. But, it is not the only reason Trump won. Just to make my position clear, like with everything else, this outcome was the result of a combination of factors. Media landscape and engagement, social media, political marketing, charisma, the left-right divide, the economic and geo-political circumstances, reactionary populism (from both sides), the rise of individualist identity politics, culture, class, authoritarian militarism (both sides of politics), neoliberalism and many other real and complicated elements converged to deliver this result.

All of these factors have to be considered in thinking about the outcome. I get bummed out when people chose not to vote, but voting doesn’t solve any problems alone – it’s just a useful mechanic for societal transformation. Also, to me, the most valuable function of voting participation is that it gauges the level of interaction between the public and the political sphere. And it always makes me sad to see when that gap when it grows wider.

Aside from all the endemic issues Trump and Brexit illuminated, the big thing these phenomenal events proved was the power of the vote. That, despite any efforts from the establishment and regardless of how entrenched the people in power may appear, at least in England and America (I think in Australia and many other democratic nations as well) people’s participation in voting, or lack there of, has a massive impact on the political process.

For everyone who might despair at the results of these processes, this is an important silver lining. My annoyance at abstention is based on my deep commitment to the democratic process. Imperfect as it might be, it’s much better than dictatorship. This may be cliché: but I love the freedom that it offers. The important thing to remember is that democracy requires work and participation.

And that is the bitter pill. Keeping politicians honest is actually the job of the public in the democratic system. Again, we return to the notion of political participation. In the wake of this election, allegations came out about mass corruption within the American political system. The involvement of big money and corporate influence were pointed to as massive rots in the system – the reason to shake things up and bring around change. People were keen to be involved in this process of exposure and a million sources suddenly came to light.

Though a great deal of the information that was published was either blatantly false or politically framed in bias, much of it was true. Trump was seen to be delivering the public ‘The Truth’ about the system. Except, NONE of this is new. Hillary is following a trajectory of American politics that has been ‘exposed’ many times in the past. People have been campaigning about corporate involvement, the unfair projection of military power and the delivery of promises the 60s and before. These people have even pushed into the mainstream. Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Joel Bakan, Naomi Klein, Adam Curtis, John Pilger and others made public appeals in the media and in press in open and accessible ways. The press ran endless stories and exposed corruption and corporate influence regularly. Academics in the field published books and articles and campaigned to draw public attention. In the 90s, top charted bands spoke about issues that resonate with contemporary realities – geo-politics, corruption, racism, sexism, freedom and democracy. And they did it with emotion and directness that makes the ‘edgy’ /pol kids of today seem tame in comparison.

While the music got play, when it came to the message, very few people listened. Perhaps what’s different in this election is that people have been pointed to it for the first time by dire economic circumstances – now that life is hard the folks are looking for someone to blame.

As a long time liberal humanist and democrat the current circumstances call for mixed feelings. To be honest, under ordinary circumstances, I’d be overjoyed at [anti establishment, Hillary] allegations gaining traction in the public realm. Right now, I’m more than a bit worried. This information is being offered for a reason. Those mentioned above worked to expose these issues because they held aspirations of fixing the system. They were speaking to the public with faith in the idea that political power could be taken back by the public. When this information is broadcast now, by the Trump campaign there is a different purpose – the attainment of political power. The aim was to shift the blame. The story is that politicians are bad. It resonates and appeals to previously held popular ideas. But this corrupt and ‘broken’ system has been widely supported by a previously disinterested public. When the public was given news about all of this before Trump, nobody listened. When 9/11 happened that same people calling foul about the war now were first to condemn investigations of this type as unpatriotic. When the global financial system collapsed in 2008, public pressure for prosecution quickly evaporated.

Most people wanted news that was either fluffy or talked about their immediate fears. There are hundreds of books and articles by academics and news reporters on all of these issues, articles that only 1% of the population has ever picked up. This complacency is in large part to blame. The process that lead the US political system to this state took many steps, and the public never held the establishment to account long enough to change the trajectories of power.

We do need change – but we also need to be careful about our information and act with public good and democracy in mind. I just hope people remember this and work for greater transparency and democratic accountability after this farcical election. Now, that the power of the vote and its capacity to bring about revolutions are clearly demonstrated, and the ills of the old system are still in the public mind, is a big chance for us to get involved. To imagine how we want to make things better and engage. To remember what we learned and not to turn away in disappointment or satisfaction, or worse yet, turn on each other.

The work of democracy is never done. People really do have the power, we just need to have the will. The best thing about the surprise election results of this year is that we KNOW it can be done.

How about some music?

Here’s a niche artist, MACKLEMORE. You might not have heard this song, cos it’s a little political. But then, have you actually looked into the politics of his music?

Classic folk lyrists, Ani DeFranco, delivers a poem that ranges from political to immediate.

Let’s take a trip back in time. You’ve heard this song a million times as a movies soundtrack… but have you actually paused to listen to the lyrics?

A little bit of soul from Middle America. Country is all about breakups, pickups and whiskey, right?

2Pac is famous…

What was 2Pac talking about? Everyone gets the same service… No, they don’t. Sometimes 911 is a joke.  Sad thing is, not much has changed since the 90s.

I’d love to hear your picks. I need me a good political playlist.

Parkour and the link Between Competition and Depression

Dear parkour friends,

I tend to favor novelty, so I’m not a huge fan of turning everything into sport. And my concerns and findings were often expressed in my comics. But as I dig deeper, I am finding some disturbing links between competition and depression that parkour practitioners might be interested in.

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But first, let me introduce myself. I’m doing some research on the book that is to come out of my PhD. I’ve recently completed a study about parkour and the people who practice it with samples from Australia, America, Canada, England, France, Denmark, Russia and Ukraine (with some brief visits and glimpses into other places). One of the things I wrote and drew about – I’m the guy who is behind the Parkour Panels – is how parkour can be practiced by those who are strictly against competition, as well as those who think that competition is good and, even, inevitable. Many of you will have met me. For those who haven’t: Hi!

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Panel from all the way back 2011….

Now that my PhD is in the bag I’m looking to expand on some of those ideas. While reading has been great, I’m currently going through a book which is central to this topic. It’s called The Happiness Industry, and written by Dr. William Davies, an American sociologist. This book summarizes much of the more academic research I found on the topic of adding competition to all kinds of activities: from parkour to running entire nations. As I took notes I realized that the content is really important for those in parkour communities – particular in America, Canada, Australia and the UK where the sportification of parkour is well under way. I thought I’d share some of my notes with you…

Having done a great deal of research on the subject, here is what Dr. Davies has to say.

” … It transpires that competition and competitive culture, including that of sport, is ultimately related to a disorder that was scantly discussed in 1977 but which has become a major policy concern by the end of the century. As the 1970s drew to a close, Western capitalist countries stood on the cusp of a whole new era of psychological management. The disorder at the heart was depression. ”

Davies points out that the competitive societies inherently rate greater levels of social inequality. Where competition is limited in the social sphere (like Scandinavia) rates of depression are much lower. In America and the UK, where competition is promoted as a social virtue, rates of depression are epidemic.

“Yet there is more to this than just a statistical correlation. Behind the numbers, there is troubling evidence that depression can be triggered by the competitive ethos itself, afflicting not only the ‘losers’ but also the ‘winners’… That competition makes many people ‘seem inferior’, has been proved far more valid than even left-wing 1970s school teachers could have imagined; it also tells them that they are inferior.”

What follows are a number of case studies that have surfaced over the last few years that show that elite athletes are highly prone to mental illness, particularly depression. I won’t type out this long section, instead I’ll just give you these links – directly related to his examples.

“A study conducted by Georgetown University found that college footballers are twice as likely to experience depression as non-footballers. Another study discovered that professional female athletes display similar personality traits as those with eating disorders, both linked to obsessive perfectionism. And a series of experiments and surveys conducted by the American psychologist Tim Kasser has revealed that ‘aspirational’ values, oriented around money, status and power, are linked to higher risk of depression and lower sense of ‘self-actualization’. Whenever we measure our self-worth relative to others, as all competitions force us to, we risk losing our sense of self-worth all together. One of the sad ironies here is that the effect of this dissuade people, including schoolchildren, from engaging in physical exercise all together” (studies cited).

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“Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that society such as America’s, which privileges a competitive individual mindset at every moment in life, has been thoroughly permeated by depressive disorders and demand for anti-depressives. Today, a third of adults in the United States and close to half in the UK believe that they occasionally suffer from depression…”

In the process of working on my PhD I found many people who unquestioningly pushed towards competition in practice. I’ve also heard a lot of slander for those who chose to practice on their own terms – that they weren’t serious or that their scene was not as evolved.

I hope that this can broach the divide a little. Give us all cause to pause and consider: If parkour is practiced for self-improvement, what role do competitions play in this process. And, if competitions are about business, how far are we willing to go in marketing our practice… particularly if it hurts the students we are trying to inspire and makes it inaccessible to others.

For more about the connection between depression and competition, click on the links in this sentence.

love!

– Pava

Hybridity, Anthropology, Comics and Pop-Culture

I’m presenting a lecture for students of anthropology of popular culture. These are the lecture ‘slides’. This one is a bit of a comics lecture – you need both audio and video to understand what’s going on.

Maybe I’ll make a video once the audio is recorded.

🙂

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Urban exploration as deviant leisure

Wonderful post by the good folks over at Deviant Leisure. Very much in line with my own research.

deviantleisure

By Theo Kindynis (University of Greenwich)

Under London, an urban explorer is dwarfed by the massive Lee Tunnel “super sewer” construction, the deepest and largest tunnel ever built under the city. Photo: Theo Kindynis. Under London, an urban explorer is dwarfed by the massive Lee Tunnel “super sewer” construction, the deepest and largest tunnel ever built under the city. Photo: Theo Kindynis.

Recreational trespass, or as it has become known in recent years, “urban exploration” (often abbreviated as UrbEx or UE) is the practice of illicitly gaining access to forbidden, forgotten or otherwise off-limits places, ‘simply for the joy of doing so’ and / or in order to document them photographically (Garrett, 2013: 21). Such places typically include: derelict industrial sites, closed hospitals or asylums, abandoned military installations, construction sites and cranes, sewer and storm drain networks, subterranean utility tunnels and rapid transit (metro) systems – the list goes on. In the past two decades, and particularly since the mid-2000s, an emergent global subculture has coalesced around this activity, facilitated by the Internet and online discussion forums such…

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Roller Derby

Having done a great deal of work with parkour communities, it’s really interesting to see the parallels in the scenes.

I don’t play, but I like talking to people who do. Recently I did some covers for a local zine. Gonna do some more.

Unicorns1.jpg

Issue 1.

Unicorns2.jpg

Issue 2.

Rar!