LSA Exec Committee Top Picks- Rhiannon Lord

The inextricable link between embodiment and narrative(s) offers opportunities to (re)examine how individuals experience their world in and through social structures therefore highlighting not only social inequalities and wellbeing concerns, but also, increasingly, emerging forms of empowerment.  Leisure practices and pursuits, particularly those with emphasis on physicality (e.g., sport and exercise), have a long history of limiting individuals’ (re)construction of body-selves by reproducing privileged body-narratives.  For example, numerous studies have reported women having to navigate tensions between their athletic and gendered body-selves.  In addition, athletes experience significant struggles (re)constructing their body-self, particularly during retirement, due to the body-narratives and regimes they are used to within their sport practices.  My ‘Top Picks’, then, are three articles whose authors  use body-narrative lenses to critically examine individuals’ experiences and wellbeing in and through their leisure practices.

My first pick is Chloe Maclean’s (2019) ‘Knowing your place and commanding space: de/constructions of gendered embodiment in mixed-sex karate’ (38:6).  Maclean’s work highlights how embodied lenses offer a unique and critical lens in examinations of women’s use and experience of mixed-sex physical leisure spaces, specifically in Karate.  Her use of sensory ethnographic methods, which are ‘spatially attuned’ provide rich detail on howunequal gender relations are subtly legitimised in these spaces.  Maclean’s work highlights the importance of not only embodied lenses, but also embodied methods.

My second pick is Agnes Elling-Machartzki’s (2015) ‘Extraordinary body-self narratives: sport and physical activity in the lives of transgender people’ (36:2).  Her work contributes to a relatively small collection on transgender people in sport/leisure, but in particular their embodied experiences pre- and post-transition.  Health and wellbeing issues around safety and stigmatisation were highlighted, but also the importance of physical activity in positively (re)constructing individuals’ body-selves.  Thus, Elling-Machartzki’s work emphasises the role embodied frameworks can play in, not only highlighting stubbornly persistent inequalities which are perpetuated in increasingly subtle ways, but also the possibility and promise of empowerment in and through leisure spaces.

Finally, Luke Jones and Jim Denison’s (2019) ‘Jogging not running: A narrative approach to exploring ‘exercise as leisure’ after a life in elite football’ (38:6).  Their work addresses the prominence, or I would argue saturation, of (post)positivist perspectives on athletic careers, an increasingly noted criticism of and among career scholars.  Use of a narrative, and therefore inherently embodied, approach demonstrates that new knowledge can be generated in well-established areas of leisure studies and, again how physical leisure can enhance individuals’ health and wellbeing as they navigate body-self challenges.

Articles can be accessed here:

  1. ca1080/02614367.2019.1632919


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