Hannah Borenstein

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Duke U.

Grant number

Gr. 9892

Approve Date

October 25, 2019

Project Title

Borenstein, Hannah (Duke U.) "A New Running Economy: Ethiopian Female Distance Runners In Networks of Capital"

My project will be the first in-depth ethnographic study of young Ethiopian women seeking a career in long distance running. The emergence of Ethiopia as a global running force powers dreams of Olympic medals and lucrative endorsements for young athletes countrywide. Along with the physical demands of pursuing this dream, female athletes must also navigate a male-dominated network of coaches and agents. Through a year-and-a-half of research in Ethiopia and the United States, I will investigate the transnational networks of people and corporations that female runners move within and across. Foregrounding gender, body politics, and global capitalism, my project revises the biology-centered concept of “running economy” into a multi-faceted sociocultural analytic for exploring how aspiring runners strive to make monetary value. The resulting study will examine how young female athletes in Ethiopia navigate the conflicting demands of family, intensive training, agents, and shoe companies. Contrary to mythologies of “natural” Ethiopian excellence at long-distance running, my project will show how “running economy” is produced through a constellation of decisions and social tensions with only a few athletes reaching elite levels. The project will show how the production of world-class runners remains fundamentally embedded within gendered constraints of a transnational capitalist market.