Chapter 6. Rock climbers’ communicative and sensory practices

image of Chapter 6. Rock climbers’ communicative and sensory practices

This chapter, following Allen-Collinson & Hockey (2011), focuses on intercorporeal sensory perception in sport through verbal, haptic, ocular, and other forms of interaction as displayed and communicated by rock climbers in collaborative (en)action. It takes an ethnomethodological based video-analytic ethnographic approach, using video clips of rock climbers in collaborative (en)action to portray their verbal and non-verbal communicative and intercorporeal mundane practices. The research is based upon participant (my own, if non-expert, climbing) and non-participant observation (watching various others climb). Also interviews and video recordings of rock climbers at various climbing sites in Northumberland, Snowdonia, the Lake District and Yorkshire in the United Kingdom were conducted. Following a brief introduction to rock climbing in general, rock climbing is then discussed as an intercoproreal sporting activity after which the argument for an ethnomethodological approach to its study in this case is then made.

This paper then uses three examples of rock climbing activities: (1) two climbers discussing with a guidebook the various routes on short crag face which they intend to climb; (2) two climbers discussing a route on a boulder route which one then climbs ‘unassisted’; and lastly (3), a quarry sports climb upon which two climbers are top roping. From these we will build up a series of brief analytic descriptions of intercorporeal enaction of knowledge and practices in rock climbing. Practices, which are both verbal and non-verbal with various types of intercorporeal enaction. Thematic to the ensuing descriptions is the role of auxiliary technologies, that alongside the climbers and the rock itself, form part of the intercorporeal matrix. It will be argued that intercorporeal enaction when expertly performed allows that practical action to ‘disappear’ from the content of the ongoing verbal interaction. While the intercorporeal enaction is dropped as a conversational topic, with other non-immediate topics replacing it, the on-going physical enaction practices are still key to understanding members’ intercorporeal enaction of climbing and its performativity.



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