‘Body practices—exposure and effect of a sporting culture?’ Stories from three Australian swimmers

This paper contributes to sport, sociology and the body literature by exploring the ‘exposure and effect’ of culture, in particular bodily practices placed on three adolescent swimmers immersed in the Australian swimming culture using an ethnographic framework. The research reported is particularly notable as it addresses two distinct time points in the swimmers’ lives. The first section explores the adolescent experiences of three female swimmers within the cultural context of Australian swimming by articulating some of the specific body practices and ‘memes’ (ideas, symbols and practices) that they were exposed to and/or engaged within relation to the body. The second section of this paper focuses on the same three swimmers in the ‘present day’, some 10–30 years after being immersed in the Australian swimming culture as adolescents. It excavates their body practices and the relationships they now have with their body, and thus pursues the sustained impact of the body practices and ‘memes’ they were exposed to as adolescents. Analysis employs concepts drawn mainly from Foucault, particularly his thesis in regard to ‘disciplinary power’, ‘regulation’ ‘classification’ and ‘surveillance’. At a club (amateur) and National level, Australian swimming is revealed as an institution, a site and culture where particular techniques of power have become concentrated and have been brought to bear on individuals in systematic ways, with sometimes damaging effects arising for athletes’ long-term health and well-being, particularly if the individuals concerned continue to engage with cultural practices in regard to the body post-career.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
McMahon, J., Penney, D. & Dinan-Thompson, M. (2011). ‘Body practices—exposure and effect of a sporting culture?’ Stories from three Australian swimmers. Sport, Education and Society, available online 17 August 2011.