Sensory sociological phenomenology, somatic learning and ‘lived’ temperature in competitive pool swimming

  • Gareth McNarry, Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson, Adam B. Evans
  • The Sociological Review, March 2020, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/0038026120915149

The lived sense of temperature in competitive swimming

Photo by Gentrit Sylejmani on Unsplash

Photo by Gentrit Sylejmani on Unsplash

What is it about?

In this article, we address a gap in the sociology of the senses, by employing sociological phenomenology to illuminate the under-researched sense of temperature, as lived by a social group for whom water temperature is particularly salient: competitive pool swimmers. The research contributes to a developing ‘sensory sociology’ that highlights the importance of the socio-cultural framing of the senses and ‘sensory work’, but where there remains a dearth of sociological exploration into senses extending beyond the ‘classic five’ sensorium. Drawing on data from a three-year ethnographic study of competitive swimmers in the UK, our analysis explores the rich sensuousities of swimming, and highlights the role of temperature as fundamentally affecting the affordances offered by the aquatic environment. The article contributes original theoretical perspectives to the sociology of the senses and of sport in addressing the ways in which social actors in the aquatic environment interact, both intersubjectively and intercorporeally, as thermal beings.

Why is it important?

Despite a growing literature on the sociology of the senses, thermoception or the lived sense of temperature remains under-researched. Here, we consider a social and physical-cultural group for whom water temperature is particularly salient: competitive pool swimmers. The research contributes to a developing ‘sensory sociology’ that highlights the importance of the socio-cultural framing of the senses and ‘sensory work’, but where there remains a dearth of sociological exploration into senses extending beyond the ‘classic five’.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0038026120915149

The following have contributed to this page: Professor Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson and Gareth McNarry