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Research Case studies

Body Narratives in Sport and Physical Activity


Andrew Sparkes

Over the life course our bodies change and we come to inhabit them and know them and ourselves in different ways. How we learn to inhabit different bodies and know them over time is a complex relational process framed by the sports and physical activities we engage with and the social categories to which we belong. Central to this relational and phenomenological process of inhabiting and attributing meaning to bodily experience over time is the role of narrative. In making sense of our corporeal experiences, we not only tell stories about our sporting and physically active bodies, but we also tell stories out of and through our bodies. Thus, the kind of body that one has and is becomes crucial to the kind of story told.

This research project, therefore, focuses on the ways in which people inhabit sporting and physically active bodies over time in different sets of circumstances and how this shapes their senses of self and interactions with others.

Research outputs:

  • Sparkes, A. & Smith, B. (2011). Inhabiting different bodies over time: Narrative and pedagogical challenges. Sport, Education & Society, 16 (3), 357-370.
  • Brewer, J., & Sparkes, A. (2011). Parentally bereaved children and posttraumatic growth: Insights from an ethnographic study of a UK childhood bereavement service. Mortality, 16 (3), 204-222.
  • Brewer, J., & Sparkes, A. (2011). The meanings of outdoor physical activity for parentally bereaved young people in the United Kingdom: Insights from an ethnographic study. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 11 (2), 127-43.
  • Sparkes, A., Brown, D., & Partington, E. (2010). The ‘jock body’ and the social construction of space: The performance and positioning of cultural identity. Space and Culture, 13, 333-347.
  • Brown, D., Jennings, G., and Sparkes, A. (2010) "It Can Be a Religion If You Want’: Wing Chun Kung Fu as a Secular Religion'. Ethnography, 11 (4), 533-557.
  • Phoenix, H., Smith, B. & Sparkes, A. (2010) Narrative analysis in aging studies: a typology for consideration. Journal of Aging Studies, 24, 1-11.
  • Sparkes, A. (2010). Performing the ageing body and the importance of place: Some brief autoethnographic moments. In: B. Humberstone (ed) ‘When I am Old ... ’ Third Age and Leisure Research: Principles and Practice (pp. 21-32) LSA publication 108. Eastbourne: Leisure Studies Association.
  • Phoenix, H. & Sparkes, A. (2009) Being Fred: Big stories, small stories and the accomplishment of a positive aging identity. Qualitative Research, 9 (2), 219-236.
  • Burke, S., & Sparkes, A. (2009) Cognitive Dissonance and the Role of Self in High Altitude Mountaineering: An Analysis of Six Published Autobiographies. Life Writing, 6 (3), 329-347.
  • Martos-Garcia, D., Devis-Devis, J. & Sparkes, A. (2009). Sport and physical activity in a high security Spanish prison: an ethnographic study of multiple meanings. Sport, Education and Society, 14 (1), 57-76.
  • Phoenix, C., & Sparkes, A. (2008). Athletic bodies and aging in context: The narrative construction of experienced and anticipated selves in time. Journal of Aging Studies, 22 (3), 211-221.
  • Burke, S., Sparkes, A., & Allen-Collinson, J. (2008) High Altitude Climbers as Ethnomethodologists Making Sense of Cognitive Dissonance: Ethnographic Insights from an Attempt to Scale Mt. Everest. The Sport Psychologist, 22, 336-355.
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