This article explores ‘community gyms’ as prefigurative counter spaces where sport is experienced as a political practice. Emerging in the framework of political squats in Italy and beyond, community gyms constitute an integral part of today’s right to the city mobilization, with two unique contributions. Firstly, they reclaim the right to leisure space as a fundamental component of the struggle against gentrification. Secondly, they introduce to a critical approach to urban development also individuals who would otherwise not embrace anti-systemic politics. Specifically, the article analyses the spatial dimension of community gyms. It exposes how they constitute a bulwark against the commodification and gentrification of the urban habitat, recovering vacant or abandoned buildings to return them to the locals and embodying an alternative model of urban development centered on people rather than profit. The article also explores the gyms’ relational dimension, showing how community gyms nurture novel relationships of care, in three ways: they include and give agency to marginalized subjects, they forge militants through sport practice, and seek to mitigate the socio-economic needs of their social surroundings. In so doing, the article shows that leisure, too, can create moments of disruption able to generate change, and that sport, when understood as a political act, can unsettle the capitalist logic of commodification of leisure. Inspired by a carnal sociology approach to social research, this article is based on original data gathered by means of in-depth interviewing, ethnographic observation and document analysis.

Fighting gentrification from the boxing ring: how community gyms reclaim the right to the city

Milan, Chiara
;
Milan, Stefania
2021-01-01

Abstract

This article explores ‘community gyms’ as prefigurative counter spaces where sport is experienced as a political practice. Emerging in the framework of political squats in Italy and beyond, community gyms constitute an integral part of today’s right to the city mobilization, with two unique contributions. Firstly, they reclaim the right to leisure space as a fundamental component of the struggle against gentrification. Secondly, they introduce to a critical approach to urban development also individuals who would otherwise not embrace anti-systemic politics. Specifically, the article analyses the spatial dimension of community gyms. It exposes how they constitute a bulwark against the commodification and gentrification of the urban habitat, recovering vacant or abandoned buildings to return them to the locals and embodying an alternative model of urban development centered on people rather than profit. The article also explores the gyms’ relational dimension, showing how community gyms nurture novel relationships of care, in three ways: they include and give agency to marginalized subjects, they forge militants through sport practice, and seek to mitigate the socio-economic needs of their social surroundings. In so doing, the article shows that leisure, too, can create moments of disruption able to generate change, and that sport, when understood as a political act, can unsettle the capitalist logic of commodification of leisure. Inspired by a carnal sociology approach to social research, this article is based on original data gathered by means of in-depth interviewing, ethnographic observation and document analysis.
Settore SPS/11 - Sociologia dei Fenomeni Politici
Community gyms; gentrification; right to the city; sport; squatting; urban movements;
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11384/108784
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