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“Working out our melancholy, our muscles and our masculinities” Depression, anomie, alienation, commodity fetishism, body-modification and masculinity in a de-industrialised Northumbrian Town.

GIAZITZOGLU, ANDREAS,GEORGE (2010) “Working out our melancholy, our muscles and our masculinities” Depression, anomie, alienation, commodity fetishism, body-modification and masculinity in a de-industrialised Northumbrian Town. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis is ‘about’ two places. Firstly, it is about Town A, which is a milieu located in South-East Northumberland (UK). Town A was once culturally and socio-economically defined by its coalmining industry. Town A’s last remaining mine closed around thirty years ago; at which point Town A became de-industrialised. Town A’s de-industrialisation, and subsequent, on-going transition from an industrial into a post-industrial economy and culture ‘frames’ this work and its dialectics. Secondly, this research is about Gym D, which is a gym that is located in Town A. Gym D attracts the areas’ ‘hard core’ (as distinct from casual) body-building community. Steroid use is rife among the gym’s close-knit community.
This thesis proposes that three typologies of working class males have co-evolved and currently co-exist in Town A and use Gym D. These typologies, as I have labelled them, are the Drifters’, the Changers’ and the Traditionalists’. The three groups have all been ‘constructed’ by different cultural habitus’ that have entered and now operate in Town A. The Drifters’ are all consensually unemployed. The Drifters share an anti-work ethic, and rely upon the Welfare state’s benefit systems for their survival. The Drifters constitute Town A’s ‘Chav’, ‘underclass’ culture and masculinity. In contrast, the Changers are all embourgeoised individuals, who aspire to be ‘middleclass’, global, yuppie men. The Changers dress and act differently to other users of Gym D and also socialise in Newcastle’s ‘fantasy spaces’, instead of the ‘rough’ spaces in and around Town A. The Changers all work in white-collar, post-industrial jobs; many of them have been to university. The Changers have thus successfully assimilated into the North-East’s emerging post-industrial economy. Simultaneously, the Traditionalists’ manage to retain Town A’s ‘traditional’, coalmining, artisan identity and lifestyle; despite such becoming increasingly obsolete. The Traditionalists’ all endeavour to perform ‘proper’, ‘hard’ (blue collar) jobs; and continue to live and act as the Town A miner stereotypically did, particularly during their leisure lives.
Epistemologically, this work does three things. Firstly, this work examines the contrasting ways that the three typologies of life identified in this research: 1) experience a disjunction in their lives between ‘how things are’ and ‘how things should be’; 2) work/labour (or fail to work), 3) spend money/buy commodities. By so doing, this work considers how relevant the theories of anomie, alienation and commodity fetishism are to users of Gym D today. I consider how the ‘mass sadness’ that afflicts my participants’ lived experiences can be accounted for and contextualised by the theories. Secondly, this work considers how my participants’ ‘gym labour’ and ‘commodity bodies’ relates to their experiences of anomie, alienation and commodity fetishism. I ask ‘does my participants’ involvement with Gym D alleviate or extend their psycho-social depression’? Thirdly, this work considers how the ‘commodity bodies’ that my participants’ have constructed in Gym D relates to their existences and identities at a semiotic level. I suggest that my participants’ modified bodies act as communicative devices in their existences, which denote metaphoric and social information about my participant groups’, within their distinctive, subjective cultural experiences.
This thesis is a product of the phenomenological tradition. Its arguments are substantiated by a series of qualitative interviews and a period of ethnographic fieldwork that I conducted ‘on’ my participants.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Masculinity, body-modification/body-building, post-industrial society, de-industrialised society, Marxism.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Jul 2010 12:45

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