Wise Bodies: Movement Re-education, Subjectivity, and Embodied Discourse

Tarr, Jennifer. 2004. Wise Bodies: Movement Re-education, Subjectivity, and Embodied Discourse. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis is a study of the emergence of the concept of body wisdom- the idea that bodies can have an innate knowledge of what is best and healthiest which has been lost but can be restored-in the context of holistic movement re-education techniques including Alexander Technique, Pilates, Feldenkrais, Rolfing, and Body-Mind Centering. Such techniques propose that changes in the body produce changes in mental and emotional states, and are based on the assumption that bodies require retraining to regain a state of naturalness.

The thesis asks how it has become possible to think of bodies as wise and knowing, and how these discourses have been embodied by those who use movement re- education. Through a combination of participant observation, semi-structured interviews with practitioners and pupils of the techniques, and discourse analysis of texts written by their founders, this study will show how a shift has come about within movement re-education, away from `body awareness' as a knowledge of one's body, toward `body wisdom' as the body's knowledge of itself. This is exemplified in these techniques' diverse understandings of the body-mind relationship. Theories of the natural body and the uses to which it is put in relation to body wisdom will also be examined.

Throughout, Foucault's approach to discourse analysis will be used in tension with Merleau-Ponty's work on embodiment in order to show that these approaches need not be contradictory and to formulate a theory of embodied discourse as a way of overcoming the dualism between these paradigms. The study thus counters tendencies within social scientific work on the body towards overtheorisation at the expense of empirical research, and towards choosing between embodiment and discourse.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Movement; bodies; movement re-education; Alexander Technique; Pilates; Feldenkrais; Rolfing; Body-Mind Centering

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Date Deposited:

24 Jun 2020 11:53

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 14:30



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