Swimming outside the box: Rethinking the mundanity of the municipal pool

Dr Penelope Rossiter1

1Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia


There is a flourishing contemporary interest in the contributions of blue spaces to human well-being. Although ‘wild swimming’ in oceans and inland waterways has seized the public imagination for its aesthetic and salutogenic affordances, outdoor pool swimming, is neglected. It is seen as ‘unnatural’, a mundane following of the black line in a chlorinated box.

This paper draws on research conducted with regular swimmers at an outdoor municipal pool and on the work of E.S. Casey on place, and the glance, to focus on what these assumptions about pool swimming neglect: the moving involvement of humans with the ‘weather world’, with water, animals, materials, objects and other humans. Glancing-swimming bodies experience, and seek out, both sustained and fleeting moments of ecological intimacy: they swim ‘outside the box’. And these complex entanglements afford swimming bodies in outdoor pools novel ways of being with place.

Penelope Rossiter is a Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Social Analysis at Western Sydney University. Her current research focuses on the outdoor municipal pool in Australia, as social infrastructure and emotional geography, combined with a phenomenological study of swimming bodies.


Dr Penelope Rossiter is a  senior lecturer in cultural and social analysis. Her research and teaching is interdisciplinary. Her two current research projects focus, quite differently, on questions of place, embodiment, representation, emotion and affects. The first combines a phenomenological study of bodies that swim with research on the outdoor municipal pool in Australia. The second focuses on Western Sydney and media representations of place, poverty and disadvantage from the comedy of ‘Housos’ to the reality-TV of ‘Struggle Street’.


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