The promise of 'sporting bodies' in phenomenological thinking: how exceptional cases of practice can contribute to develop foundational phenomenological concepts

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For decades, qualitative researchers have used phenomenological thinking to advance reflections on particular kinds of lifeworlds. As emphasised by Allen-Collinson phenomenology offers a continuing promise of ‘bringing the body back in’ to theories on sport and physical activity. Turning to philosophy, traditionally, phenomenologists have not paid much attention to qualitative research. Nevertheless, phenomenology does contain a strong emphasis on using ‘data’ or experiences from daily life and on drawing on data from medical pathology. In other words while qualitative researchers employ phenomenology to empirically investigate the domain of sport and exercise, phenomenologists employ empirical data to substantiate their claims concerning foundational conditions of our being-in-the-world. In this article, we suggest a way to enhance the collaboration between the two fields by pointing out and giving examples of the resource of ‘the factual variation.’ Coined by Shaun Gallagher and developed from the Husserlian eidetic variation, the factual variation uses exceptional cases, normally from pathology, to shed new light on foundational phenomenological concepts. Drawing on our research of sports dancers and expert musicians, we indicate how qualitative researchers across the board, through the factual variation, can contribute to phenomenological thinking and thereby also strengthen their own theoretical foundation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)56-68
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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