Dissertation Abstracts

Producing Creative Work: An Ethnographic Approach to “Professional Climbers”

Author: Dumont, Guillaume , guidumo@gmail.com
Department: Social Anthropology - CRIS
University: Universidad Autonoma de Madrid - Université Claude Bernard Lyon1, Spain
Supervisor: A.Pazos - C.Perrin - E.Boutroy
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: French

Keywords: Profession , Sport , Media , Creative Labour
Areas of Research: Communication, Knowledge and Culture , Work , Sport


Climbing media show and idealize professional climbers as privileged individuals constantly traveling and climbing in the world’s best locations. This representation is fueled by the climbing industry which provides economic rewards to climbers and the media. However, in the context of the low-institutionalization and low-organization of the sport, gaining the status of “pro-climber” is complex and goes beyond the high-level sport performance that shapes professional sports. It draws on accurate knowledge and understanding of “the climbing scene”, high networking skills and the building of a micro-celebrity status. In their quest to gain economic rewards from their passion, climbers have to engage with self-entrepreneurialism and deal with the commercial interests and the aim of profit by global expansion of the companies. The professional climber is built as a commodity, as a cultural product with the aim of commercialization and profit. To do so, climbers create and rely on cooperative strategies of self-promotion, supplementing the communication policies of their sponsors. These strategies transform the conditions of labour and provoke substantial changes in the realization and development of the activity. Drawing on intensive ethnographic fieldwork in the US and in Europe with climbers, media professionals and climbing industry members, this research frames climbers as creative workers and explores the conditions of their creative labour. The shift from a manufacturing to a service economy and the transformation of capitalism have seen the emergence of multiple terms struggling to conceptualize work and labour in the contemporary context. Yet, beyond this heterogeneity, the aim is to engage with work as cultural and creative and to explore the current context of the heavy digitalization of information. This research highlights an essential opening up of the scope of creative work in the cultural industries through the incorporation of other activities where creativity is not taken for granted. The focus is decentered from the figure of the professional climber to the structures of collective action and the networks of collaboration to address the conditions of contemporary labour and the process of producing and commercializing cultural products. Thus, I explore how an individual becomes a cultural product, how this product is commercialized as well as how culture influences this process of collective production.