Mica Wirtz: Analysing Contemporary Fitness Practices – Methodological Reflections

Discourse theories are mainly regarded as incompatible with practice theories, as they are based on different theoretical foundations. Briefly and simplifying, practice theories see embodied practices as the smallest entity of the social and thereby as the driving force of the social, whereas discourse theories focus on discourses as power-knowledge nexuses regulating society. Accordingly, both use different kinds of methodical tool and empirical materials: whereas practice theories mainly work with (participating) observation to analyse practices and their embodied implicit knowledge, discourse analysis focusses on texts. Both approaches necessarily differ in the range of their results.
Using the analysis of contemporary fitness practices as an example, I intend to show possibilities and blind spots of both approaches. Following concepts trying to integrate the analysis of practices as well as discourses, I want to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of an integration or even merging of practice and discourse theories.