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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"I don't want to die, but I accept that it can happen" : taking risks and doing gender among BASE jumpers Forsey, Caitlin Andrea


Using ethnographic data generated through semi-structured interviews with 16 male BASE jumpers, observations of over 1000 BASE jumps (parachuting from fixed objects such as Buildings, Antennas, Spans and Earth), and textual analyses of BASE-related websites, images, and publications, this research provides a sociocultural analysis of the relationship between masculinity and voluntary risk-taking. Drawing on wider debates about modernization, individualization, technology, gender relations, embodiment, and the sociology of the everyday, I illustrate the multifaceted nature of this phenomenon, in addition to the advantages of using a theoretically diverse approach. I link the emergence of BASE jumping in contemporary Western society to military history and the synthesis of two extreme sports, namely, bungee jumping and skydiving. I explore the practices, ethics, technologies, and mentoring styles specific to the practice, with the goal of demonstrating how BASE jumping integrates individuals into social groups. An analysis of the gender regime operating within the BASE community reveals tensions between engagement in the practice and issues of responsibility related to fatherhood, marriage, and other intimate relations. My findings further suggest BASE jumping provides a forum for learning, practicing, and perfecting valued skills within the localized field of the BASE community, in addition to other spheres of personal and professional life. Taken together, these insights provide a deeper understanding of gendered participation in the high-risk activity of BASE jumping, thereby addressing an important lacuna in the voluntary risk-taking and extreme sport literatures.

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