Intercorporeality - Merleau-Ponty’s Ontology of Flesh and Butoh Dance Practice

Szynkarczuk, Pawel. 2015. Intercorporeality - Merleau-Ponty’s Ontology of Flesh and Butoh Dance Practice. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This research project is interdisciplinary and intercultural. Broadly, it moves between the practices of phenomenology and dance in order to contribute in an original way to contemporary debates associated with a so-called 'somatic turn' in recent critical theory. Specifically, the project engages with the phenomenology/ontology of the late Merleau-Ponty, and with Butoh, a dance form that emerged in Japan in the late 1950s, having sources in Noh Theatre and Kabuki and western Expressionist Dance. What these practices bring to the broad contemporary debates concerning somatic/embodiment, in methodologically distinct ways, is a focus on intercorporeality; a phenomenon/experience/lived concept that, in Merleau-Ponty’s later work, increasingly replaces earlier notions of intersubjectivity, thus decentering the western, epistemological concept of the (humanist) “subject” and emphasising instead an anonymous, pre-personal basis of existence.

The project as a whole draws largely on my own original research of an as yet largely un-researched constellation of source materials and practices. It also contributes to Merleau-Pontean scholarship by examining Merleau-Pontean ideas that have still not been fully exploited, and exploring possible relationships between this material and Eastern philosophical views of embodiment. A further important aspect of the originality of my work is its methodological approach as I also discuss issues of intercorporeality and the pre-personal experientially, through lived practice and interrogations of Butoh. Here, engagement with the intercorporeal/prepersonal is through processes of enactment and it is my own body that is the major instrument of data-collection. This methodological emphasis is important since a large part of Merleau-Ponty’s later project was also centred on methodology, namely his ongoing search for appropriate philosophical ‘instruments’ and for a philosophical language able, paradoxically, to open up the realm of pre-reflexive/pre-linguistic being and learn from it.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Intercorporeality, Butoh, Dance, Ontology of Flesh, Merleau-Ponty

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


30 September 2015

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

30 Nov 2015 17:01

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:23


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