2018 NASSS Annual Conference
Sport Soundtrack: Sport, Music, & Culture

Jenny McMahon

University of Tasmania
Eating Dis/Orders and Recovery: Athlete Autobiographies as Critical Discursive Pedagogies

In this presentation the cultural construction of eating dis/orders within the context of sport and intersecting meanings of ‘mental pain’ and ‘recovery’ is explored. Using sport autobiographies as analytical and pedagogical narrative resources (Sparkes & Stewart, 2016), results of a critical discourse analysis of two elite women swimmer’s personal/public self-stories of eating disorders (i.e., Leisel Jones – “Body Lengths’; Amanda Beard – “In the Water they Can’t See you Cry”) are presented. This work builds on critical feminist research in health psychology that theorizes dis/ordered bodies as constituted within, and by, socio-cultural discourses (Malson & Burns, 2009). Through focusing on taken for granted forms of ‘language in use’ within the stories to create ‘subject positions’, how eating disorders are talked about are highlighted (e.g., positioning athletes as passive to whom eating disorders happen, dis/order as shameful and secretive, relational interactions as causes) and problematized. The nuanced ways in which struggle, pain and recovery are experienced within body and performance discourses, in terms of agency and resistance in relation to subject positions constructed within discourses is also discussed. Conclusions centre on how autobiographies may serve as public self-storied, discursive forms of ‘confession’ and ‘redemption’ to (re)construct eating dis/order meanings in athlete’s narrative lives.