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'Working out’ identity: distance runners and the management of disrupted identity

Taylor & Francis
Publication Date
  • L300 Sociology


This article contributes fresh perspectives to the empirical literature on the sociology of the body, and of leisure and identity, by analysing the impact of long-term injury on the identities of two amateur but serious middle/long-distance runners. Employing a symbolic interactionist framework,and utilising data derived from a collaborative autoethnographic project, it explores the role of ‘identity work’ in providing continuity of identity during the liminality of long-term injury and rehabilitation, which poses a fundamental challenge to athletic identity. Specifically, the analysis applies Snow and Anderson’s (1995) and Perinbanayagam’s (2000) theoretical conceptualisations in order to examine the various forms of identity work undertaken by the injured participants, along the dimensions of materialistic, associative and vocabularic identifications. Such identity work was found to be crucial in sustaining a credible sporting identity in the face of disruption to the running self, and in generating momentum towards the goal of restitution to full running fitness and reengagement with a cherished form of leisure. KEYWORDS: identity work, symbolic interactionism, distance running, disrupted identity

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