‘Condition’: energy, time and success amongst Ethiopian runners
Crawley, Michael Peter Hamilton
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Long distance runners in East Africa are often portrayed in the international media as ‘naturally’ gifted or as running away from poverty. This thesis – that traces the athletic lives of Ethiopian long-‐distance runners seeking to ‘change their lives’ through the sport – presents a different account, demonstrating how runners operate in an economy of limited energy. Based on fifteen months of fieldwork (September 2015 to December 2016) that followed Ethiopian runners from rural training camps in the Northern highlands to Addis Ababa and further afield to competitions in Europe and China, the thesis makes a major contribution to the anthropology of economic action and to the anthropology of sport and development. Ethiopian long-‐distance runners are part of an increasingly competitive running market, which offers both new opportunities to make fantastic amounts of money and higher odds against doing so. The choice to become a runner is characterised by speculation and risk as well as the active rejection of other forms of precarious work, which runners perceive as failing to offer a ‘chance’ of changing your life for the better. As runners train together but compete as individuals, a core tension arises between relational and individual agency. As this thesis explores, this tension is played out across the moral economy of energy expenditure. The thesis develops this argument by paying particular attention to the bodily and affective dimensions of running, beginning on the level of individual concerns with self-‐improvement and the careful marshalling and monitoring of energy on a day-‐ to-‐day basis. It goes on to argue that morally appropriate training regimes in Ethiopia are characterised by working together, and the visibility and synchronicity of running as well as eating and resting. Finally, the thesis shoes how global entities – corporations, race organisers, technical devices – affect the economy of energy in Ethiopia and bring new ethical challenges. As attempts to craft responsible and entrepreneurial subjects coincide with long standing Amhara notions of the individual and ‘chance,’ different dispositions converge and diverge.