Endurance work’: embodiment and the mind-body nexus in the physical culture of high-altitude mountaineering

Sociology 52 (6):1324-1341 (2017)
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Abstract
The 2015 Nepal earthquake and avalanche on Mount Everest generated one of the deadliest mountaineering disasters in modern times, bringing to media attention the physical-cultural world of high-altitude climbing. Contributing to the current sociological concern with embodiment, here we investigate the lived experience and social ‘production’ of endurance in this sociologically under-researched physical-cultural world. Via a phenomenological-sociological framework, we analyse endurance as cognitively, corporeally and interactionally lived and communicated, in the form of ‘endurance work’. Data emanate from in-depth interviews with 18 high-altitude mountaineers, ten of whom experienced the 2015 avalanche. The article responds to Shilling’s (2016) call to address an important lacuna identified in sociological work: the need to investigate the embodied importance of cognition in the incorporation of culture. The concept of endurance work provides a powerful exemplar of this cognitive-corporeal nexus at work as a physical-culturally shaped, embodied practice and mode-of-thinking in the social world of high-altitude climbing.
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