Risky bodies, risky spaces, maternal ‘instincts’: swimming and motherhood

Evans, Adam B., Allen-Collinson, Jacquelyn and Williams, Rachel K. (2017) Risky bodies, risky spaces, maternal ‘instincts’: swimming and motherhood. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 52 (8). pp. 972-991. ISSN 1012-6902

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20140 IRSS Swimming Mothers Main Doc Final Jan 2016 pre-pub.pdf
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Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive


Swimming and aquatic activity are fields in which gendered, embodied identities are brought to the fore, and the co-presence of other bodies can have a significant impact upon lived experiences. To date, however, there has been little research on sport and physical cultures that investigates how meanings associated with space impact upon women’s embodied experiences of participating in swimming, specifically in the presence of their young children. Using semi-structured interviews and non-participant observations, this qualitative study employed a Foucauldian-feminist framework to explore self-perceptions and embodied experiences of aquatic activity amongst 20 women, who were swimming with children aged under 4. Results highlight that through ‘felt’ maternal responsibilities, the co-presence of babies’ and children’s bodies shifted women’s intentionality away from the self towards their child. Mothers’ embodied experiences were grounded in perceptions of space-specific ‘maternal instincts’ and focused upon disciplining their children’s bodies in the lived-space of the swimming pool. Key findings cohere around mothers’ felt concerns about hygiene, water temperature and safety, and elements of intercorporeality and ‘somatic empathy’.

Keywords:Sociology, Intercorporeality, Somatic empathy, Motherhood, Swimming, Foucault, Surveillance, bmjdoi
Subjects:L Social studies > L300 Sociology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Sport and Exercise Science
ID Code:20140
Deposited On:28 Jan 2016 17:32

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