Marathon swimming, embodiment and identity

By Karen Throsby



  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9962-5
  • Pages: 216
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: June 2016
  • BIC Category: Social & cultural anthropology, SPORTS & RECREATION / Swimming & Diving, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural, Swimming & Diving, Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography, Sociology
  • Series: New Ethnographies


Immersion is about the extreme sport of marathon swimming. Drawing on extensive (auto)ethnographic data, Immersion explores the embodied and social processes of becoming a marathon swimmer and investigates how social belonging is produced and policed. Using marathon swimming as a lens, this foundation provides the basis for an exploration of what constitutes the 'good' body in contemporary neoliberal society across a range of sites including charitable swimming, fatness, gender and health. The book argues that the self-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.

The book is aimed primarily at readers at undergraduate level and upwards with an interest in sociology, the sociology of the body, the sociology of sport, gender and the sociology of health and illness.


'Throsby's own experiences ground the book and provide relatable entry points to her academic work. Throughout Immersion, which addresses all aspects of being a marathon swimmer from the initial becoming one to the politics of the bodies that ratify swims, Throsby seamlessly intersperses journal entries and field notes about her own swimming. It was during her unflinchingly honest self-assessment passages that I felt like I could have been reading my own swimming biography. Her lovely use of imagery and language in theses vignettes sucks the reader in with an anecdotal punch, from which she transitions to a more 30,000-foot view of the sport in general, contextualizing her powerful personal experiences.'
Elaine K. Howley, h2open Magazine


Part I: Becoming and belonging
1. Becoming
2. Unexpected pleasures
3. Authentic swimming
4. Making it count
Part II: The good body
5. Who are you swimming for?
6. Gendering swimming
7. Heroic fatness
8. Failing bodies


Karen Throsby is Associate Professor in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds

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