Shifting Currents is an original and comprehensive history of swimming. It examines the tension that arose when non-swimming
northerners met African and Southeast Asian swimmers. Using archaeological, textual and art historical sources, Karen Eva
Carr shows how the water simultaneously attracted and repelled these northerners – swimming seemed uncanny, related to witchcraft
and sin. Europeans used Africans’ and Native Americans' swimming skills to justify enslaving them, but northerners also wanted
to claim water’s power for themselves. They imagined that swimming would bring them health and demonstrate their scientific
modernity. This unresolved tension still sexualizes women’s swimming and marginalizes Black and Indigenous swimmers today.
The history of swimming is a new lens through which to gain a clearer view of race, gender and power on a centuries-long scale.