ANTH Seminar Series | “Do You Even Lift?”: The Social Lives of Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs
It is increasingly recognised that drugs have social lives. Drugs gain meaning through social relations, and have implications for social interactions. This is particularly true of image and performance enhancing drugs (IPEDs) which literally shape people. For the past 4 years I have been immersed in online bodybuilding communities, exploring the practice, experience and meaning of IPEDs.
In this seminar I discuss the place of IPEDs in bodybuilding communities. In particular I describe motivations for use including the folk pharmacology of particular compounds, and the use of IPEDs to overcome problems with psychoactive drugs, depression and chronic pain. I also describe the community specific construction of boundaries between risk and benefit, and the harm reductions strategies developed by bodybuilders in the absence of medical support. In so doing I compare and contrast knowledge systems: the experiential knowledge of bodybuilders (“broscience”) with medical and scientific understandings of these drugs.
About the speaker
Mair Underwood is an anthropologist of the body and lecturer in the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland. Mair has a particular interest in body modification and decoration. For the last 4 years she has been immersed in men’s muscle cultures through online ethnographies of the Zyzz fandom (an international community of fans of the deceased Australian recreational bodybuilder, Aziz Shavershian aka ‘Zyzz’), and performance and image enhancing drug communities. She is especially interested in how muscle serves as a foundation for gendered power relations, and the social lives of image and performance enhancing drugs.