Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationColorado State U.
Grant numberGr. 10196
Approve DateOctober 7, 2021
Project TitleCohen, Adrienne (Colorado State U.) "Vertical Life: Carnal Enskilment and Posthuman Intimacies in American Rock Climbing"
In the past two decades, rock climbing transformed from a countercultural niche sport in the United States to one practiced in gyms across the country and scheduled for the next Olympics. Unlike many mainstream sports, however, climbing is premised on an outdoor experience, which undergirds the indoor pursuit. By learning to move vertically, practitioners gain access to a new dimension of the world, and their proficiency often leads them to become familiar with, and invested in, stone landscapes. This ethnographic study, situated both in urban rock gyms and at outdoor cliff bands in Colorado and Wyoming, examines rock climbers, their kinesthetic and linguistic practices, and the walls they form relationships with. It explores the semiotics of vertical proficiency to discover how humans learn to relate to and inhabit vertical landscapes through carnal enskilment. At once an ethnography of semiotic worldmaking and of human-environment relationality, this project invites new conversations between anthropologies of sport, embodiment, and posthumanism.