“Man and the air”. Symbolic analysis of some aerial leisure activities

Carte blanche to Christian Pociello
By Luc Robène, Dominique Jorand

Bearing in mind the theoretical requirements of a sports sociology inspired by Bourdieu, it seemed risky to venture into a symbolic analysis of the aerial element with which the adepts of paraglinding and hang gliding began to play since the diffusion of this activity in France, after the 1975s. Aspiring to a lifting of certain constraints and in search of some new types of vertigo opened thus—and very opportunely to the male youth—a field of sensational “flights” to the “Grand Air”, in new “open spaces”… A return to Gaston Bachelard’s works on the poetics of the four elements (Earth, Air, Water and Fire). Reading this philosopher, escaping into the analysis of our imaginary and poetic productions shows that he has identified the hardest and rockiest “materials” (the so-called Earth of the Will), which he says, inspired by a kind of “dynamogeny” becomes the preferential support of “maneuvering manhood” and gestures “perforating”. In contrast to this dreamed corporeal imaginary—frappling and perforating stones or rocks- is located “Air” as the lightest element, Floating and impalpable; The least “material” and the most “fluid” but also the most “common”; Which he defines as the “Element” par excellence of “our freedom”! These are sets of dynamogenic oppositions that have proved to be quite revealing in examining the production of contrasting sports tastes, while at the same time building a “primitive and eternal” Icarian symbolic meaning of our flights.


  • symbolism
  • outdoor
  • air sports
  • sports system
  • freedom
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