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The real issue is flying, not death. Dealing with risk in the subculture of Italian gliding

Carocci, A.; (2009) The real issue is flying, not death. Dealing with risk in the subculture of Italian gliding. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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This thesis aims to rethink subcultural theory by applying it to an unusual age bracket. It proposes to chart forms of reflexivity in risk perception among the practitioners of a dangerous sport, and adopts as its empirical point of departure the subculture of middle class, middle-aged glider pilots in the Italian village of Bilonia. Exploring the world of gliding, it describes ethnographically the local situations in two gliding clubs, Bilonia, where the main fieldwork took place, and Piti, where a second shorter period of participant-observation was conducted. Adopting a comparative perspective, these local realities are contrasted amongst themselves and with the wider subculture of gliding in Italy. The thesis argues that, despite the prevalence of a single dominant subculture, gliding is practised in different ways in different places, especially with regard to risk perception and management. However, these are affected in all locations by the peculiar characteristic of the subculture, the average age of the glider pilots, which rules out the extreme behaviours of younger practitioners and goes against the tenets of some explanations of voluntary risk taking. In the first three chapters a theoretical framework is developed based upon advances in sports anthropology, subcultural theory and social scientific theories of risk. In the empirical chapters that follow, gliding is variously introduced as an experience involving a precise script, as a local reality tinged with peculiarities that set it apart from the wider reality of the sport in the national arena. The last three chapters discuss key points of the theoretical approach adopted and the findings they led to, in particular the implications for the study of sport subcultures. The empirical data presented suggest the existence of a middle-aged sport subculture, something that has not often been encountered in the literature on the subject. It is shown how risk perception follows a precise pattern which is shaped by the cultural norm of the gliding subculture – in its turn affected by the average age of the members.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The real issue is flying, not death. Dealing with risk in the subculture of Italian gliding
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/18511
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