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Research Case studies

Interrupted Body Projects in Sport and the Narrative Reconstruction of Self


Andrew Sparkes

The sporting and physically active body is an absent presence in our lives and disappears from our awareness when functioning unproblematically. This taken-for-grantedness is disturbed when the body dysfunctions or encounters trauma and we are forced to live in a body that we didn’t choose and over whose fate we may have limited control. When people are faced with a crisis that presents a fundamental threat to the experience of self and radically changes their way of being in the world, the tendency is to turn to narrative. They do so, because these bodily changes have meaning, and narrative is the language of meaning.

This research project, therefore, focuses on the role that narrative plays in shaping the ways in which athletes who have encountered serious injury or illness reconstruct their body-self-other relationships over time.

Research outputs:

  • Sparkes, A., Pérez-Samaniego, V., & Smith, B. (2012). Social comparison processes, narrative mapping, and their shaping of the cancer experience: A case study of an elite athlete. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 16(5), pp. 467 - 488.
  • Sparkes, A. (2012) Fathers and sons: In bits and pieces. Qualitative Inquiry, 18 (2), 167 – 178.
  • Sparkes, A., Batey, J. & Owen, G. (2012) The muscled self and the dynamics of shame and pride: A bodybuilding life history. In A. Locks & N. Richardson (Ed.), Critical readings in bodybuilding (pp. 107-121). London: Routledge.
  • Smith, B. & Sparkes, A. (2012) Disability, sport and physical activity: A critical review. In: N. Watson, A. Roulstone & C. Thomas (Eds) Routledge Handbook of Disability Studies (pp. 336-347). London: Routledge.
  • Sparkes, A. & Smith, B. (2011). Inhabiting different bodies over time: Narrative and pedagogical challenges. Sport, Education & Society, 16 (3), 357-370.
  • Smith, B. & Sparkes, A. (2011). Exploring multiple responses to a chaos narrative. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 15 (1), 38-53.
  • Stewart, C., Smith, B., and Sparkes, A. (2011). Sporting autobiographies of illness and the role of metaphor. Sport in Society, 14 (5), 577-593
  • Sparkes, A., & Smith, B. (2011) Men, Spinal Cord Injury, Memories and the Narrative Performance of Pain. In R. Giulianotti (Ed) Sociology of Sport. London: Sage.
  • Sparkes, A. & Smith, B. (2008) Men, spinal cord injury, memories, and the narrative performance of pain. Disability & Society, 23 (7), 679-690.
  • Smith, B. & Sparkes, A. (2008) Changing bodies, changing narratives and the consequences of tellability: a case study of becoming disabled through sport. Sociology of Health & Illness, 30 (2), 217-236
  • Carless, D. & Sparkes, A. (2008) The physical activity experiences of men with serious mental illness: Three short stories. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9, pp. 191-210.
  • Sparkes, A. (2008) The fatal flaw: A narrative of the fragile body-self. In P. Atkinson & S. Delamont (Eds) Ethnographic Discourse. London: Sage.
  • Sparkes, A. (2008) Sporting heroes, autobiography and illness narratives: A brief comparison of Bob Champion and Lance Armstrong. In D. Robinson, P. Fisher, T. Yeadon-Lee, Robinson, S. & P. Woodcock (Eds). Narrative, Memories and Identities (p.p. 113-125). Huddersfield: University of Huddersfield Press.

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