Methodological Innovation: The Immersion Approach

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In this paper, I argue for an immersion approach to the study of youth competitive swimmers. In practical terms, engaging in full-participation as “just another player” in youths’ games and sports is not possible for adult researchers (Heath et al. 2009; Thorne 1993), often due to visible character markers such as age and size that would make it unreasonable for an adult to join in child and youth fields of play. Despite this fact, there may be ways of conducting ethnographic research that doesn’t have the researcher directly participating in the sport, but actively engaging in the everyday routines and daily rhythms of youth’s sporting practices (see Grasmuck 2005; Dyck 2012). This approach stems from a critical engagement with anthropological studies of childhood, which has advanced the perspective that children and youth are “actors who possess and endeavor to exercise agency in their own right” (Dyck 2012, 7), is informed by the critical scholarship bridging childhood and sport (Anderson 2003; Broch 2003), and takes the phenomenological position that considers the body as “the subject of culture” (Csordas 1990, 5), the body being the “field of perception and practice” (1990, 35). If, as Merleau-Ponty (2012 [1964]) argues, perception begins in the body, then an anthropological comparison (Dyck and Hognestad 2015) between the embodied activities of youth and adults, in this case competitive swimming, is a productive way to approach embodied research and to question the parameters of how we might use embodiment as a research technique.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019
EventTransforming Sport: A Postgraduate/Early Career Workshop and Career Development Event - University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Jun 201928 Jun 2019


WorkshopTransforming Sport
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • sport & leisure cultures
  • Ethnography
  • Participant observation
  • youth
  • Swimming


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