A guest-post written for OWA can be read here.
When the time came to choose my MA dissertation’s topic, I was terrified. The plan was to write about something at least remotely connected to my bachelor’s course, but it just wasn’t exciting any more. I watched the eyes of my peers glow as they talked about their topics and I wanted to feel what they felt. I wanted to write about something that continuously drives and inspires me. Climbing.
Now, imagine how difficult a decision it was to leave years devoted to studying Japanese behind and just plunge into a completely new and mysterious world of lifestyle sport studies. I mean, I didn’t even know they existed. Plus, my degree was to be in Anthropology of Media, so trying to fit climbing into that realm felt quite awkward, to say the least. New media (mostly meaning media facilitated by internet) was my first road sign.
I thought about things I did online. How I always searched for vids and blogs from female climbers. How they inspired me to train harder and how I always was annoyed there wasn’t more to watch or read. Some time earlier I had started a Facebook page devoted to sharing bits of information, mostly visual, about climbing women; now I was realising there were more and more initiatives of this kind springing around the web; connecting women, facilitating sharing of information and inspiration and even prompting them to meet in real life and train together. Would I ever go to the Peaks to meet up with the awesome crew from Manchester Women’s Climbing Club if not for Twitter and Women Climb? Nope. So why were women resorting to the internet and taking to their keyboards and cameras to share their passion with other female climbers? One of my research questions was born.
About four million pages of scholarly articles later, I started what anthropologists call ‘the field work’. One of the most important parts of this process is conducting interviews to get to know what people actually think. Eight female climbers agreed to spend long hours with me, chatting about most serious and most silly things.
Once again I would like to thank all the women that helped me with my thesis. Without my real life and online informants I wouldn’t get anywhere!
My MA course was completed at SOAS, University of London. The thesis was awarded distinction.