This book is about the extreme sport of marathon swimming. It provides insight into a social world about which very little is known, while simultaneously exploring the ways in which the social world of marathon swimming intersects and overlaps with other social worlds and configurations of power and identity. Drawing on extensive (auto) ethnographic data, Immersion explores the embodied and social processes of becoming a marathon swimming and investigates how social belonging is produced and policed. Using marathon swimming as a lens, this foundation provides a basis for an exploration of what constitutes the ‘good’ body in contemporary society across a range of sites including charitable swimming, fatness, gender and health. The book argues that the dominant representations of marathon swimming are at odds with its lived realities, and that this reflects the entrenched and limited discursive resources available for thinking about the sporting body in the wider social and cultural context. It argues that in spite of these constraints, novel modes of embodiment and pleasure seep out between the cracks of those entrenched understandings and representations, highlighting the inability of the dominant understandings of sporting embodiment to account for experiences of immersion. This in turn opens up spaces for resistance and alternative accounts of embodiment and identity both within and outside of marathon swimming.
as capital. It is in
this way that Immersion both offers an insight into the relatively unknown practices, pleasures and social world of marathon swimming, and mobilises marathon
swimming as a lens through which to consider the wider social context within
which it is made meaningful.
At first glance, I am an unlikely marathon swimmer, particularly from the perspective of those outside of the sport. I’m a middle aged woman with a very
sedentary job as a university lecturer in sociology and a deeply bookish streak;
I spend a lot of time reading in