The significance of embodiment has long been overlooked in theories of deliberative democracy. Deliberation is characterized by inclusive and rational discussion that functions in an allegedly neutral and abstract space. This article draws attention to the bodies between which political interaction always occurs. Bodies have important yet unpredictable effects for political interaction and can extend or disorder the careful conscious conversation invoked by deliberative democrats. Identities are reproduced by bodies, and bodies may conform to or transform their identifications. Using Merleau-Ponty's notion of habitual knowledge, the article argues that bodies provide limitations, capacities, and opportunities for democratic politics. At the same time, bodies and their identifications are themselves transformed through deliberation and other types of political experience.
Democracy, Identification, and Embodiment
The Enigma of Non-arrival
Nigel Rapport and Noa Vaisman
How people arrive at their convictions, and how they come to change them, remain immensely difficult questions. This article approaches convictions as manifestations of individuals' embodiment, and as allegories of their lives. As well as a rehearsing of moments of his own embodied learning, the main author engages in an email exchange with the second author, pondering how he might answer her questions about an anthropological methodology which more nearly approaches others' embodied experiences: the convictions represented by informants' words and behaviours. The article ends inconclusively. An individual's knowledge of body and self is part of that body and self, situated amid world-views and life-projects. Alongside the radical otherness of anthropologists' informants is the relative otherness of anthropologists to themselves. Our disciplinary conclusions concerning convictions, own and other, must remain provisional and open.
Embodiment and Immanence in Catholicism and Mormonism
Jon P. Mitchell and Hildi J. Mitchell
This article argues for belief, suggesting that the reason why anthropologists might have moved against belief is their persistent attachment to a linguistic model of religion that sees the job of the anthropologist of religion as being one of translation. In such a model, the absence of the word 'belief' signals the absence of the process. We argue for the enduring utility of belief, not as a linguistic category, but as a description of experiential processes at the heart of religion. Using examples from popular Catholicism and Mormonism, we contend that such processes are rooted in the body. Through bodily practice and performance, religion is generated as an immanent force in the world—people come to believe.
Rappaport and Polanyi between Thick and Thin
Robert E. Innis
Roy Rappaport’s attempted semiotic schematization of the logic of ritual, relying on analytical tools from C. S. Peirce’s philosophical semiotics, is examined in terms of both its conceptual coherence and its relation to other schematizations of ritual, especially Michael Polanyi’s thematization of a ‘tacit logic’ of meaning-making. The Peircean foregrounding of sign types (icons, indices, symbols) is compared to Polanyi’s delineation of an irreducible from-to structure of consciousness, rooted in the distinction between focal and subsidiary awareness, and to his further distinction between indication and symbolization as ways of relating to and effecting symbolic complexes, such as rituals. One of the startling upshots of this comparison is that the distinctions between ‘thick ritual’ and ‘thin ritual,’ and between art and ritual, become extremely labile. Examples from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Philip Larkin, and Simone Weil illustrate this last point.
Embodiment Technologies in Science/Fiction
The screen is the material and imaginative interface where biology meets technology. It is the nexus between science and fiction, where technological and ethical concerns surrounding synthespians, representations of replicants, and manifestations of synthetic biology come into play. This analysis of digital imaging and cinematic imagining of virtual actors and synthetic humans in films such as Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017) examines the ethical implications of digital embodiment technologies and cybernetics. I argue that it is necessary to bring together science and the arts to advance understandings of embodiment and technology. In doing so, I explore commonalities between ethical concerns about technobiological bodies in cultural and scientific discourse and developments such as the creation of virtual humans and “deepfake” digital doubles in screen media.
Recently global attention has been directed to the situations of girls and boys with disabilities, yet research tells us little about the experiences and perspectives of girls with disabilities except that their lives are filled with barriers, violence and stigma. I explore how girlhood studies can authentically include girls with disabilities. Drawing on feminist disability studies, I argue that we can use intersectional theory to identify and include the experiences of girls with disabilities, and explore diverse embodiments of girlhood. In doing this we can remove the trump card of disability and see disabled girls as an integral part of girlhood and girlhood studies.
Exploring the Sensorial Embodiment of Class
Camilla Hoffmann Merrild, Peter Vedsted and Rikke Sand Andersen
Social inequality in cancer survival is well known, and within public health promo- tion enhancing awareness of cancer symptoms is often promoted as a way to reduce social differences in stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis. In order to add to our knowledge of what may lie behind social inequalities in cancer survival encountered in many high-income countries, this article explores the situatedness of bodily sensations. Based on comparative ethnographic fieldwork, we argue that the socially and biologically informed body influences how people from lower social classes experience sensations. Overall, we point out how the sensorial is tied to the embodiment of the social situation in the sense that some bodies make more ‘noise’ than others. It follows that standardised approaches to improving early care seeking by increasing knowledge and awareness may overlook essential explanations of social differences in symptom appraisal.
This article discusses experimental studies of facial imitation in infants in the light of Sartre's and Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological theories of embodiment. I argue that both Sartre's account of the gaze of the other and Merleau-Ponty's account of the reversibility of the flesh provide a fertile ground for interpreting the data demonstrating that very young infants can imitate facial expressions of adults. Sartre's and Merleau-Ponty's accounts of embodiment offer, in my view, a desirable alternative to the dominant mentalistic interpretation of facial imitation in terms of the theory of mind.
Cross-Cultural Articulations of War Magic and Warrior Religion
D. S. Farrer
Previous anthropology emphasized symbolic incantations at the expense of the embodied practice of magic. Foregrounding embodiment and performance in war magic and warrior religion collapses the mind-body dualism of magic versus rationality, instead highlighting social action, innovation, and the revitalization of tradition, as tempered historically by colonial and post-colonial trajectories in societies undergoing rapid social transformation. Religion and magic are re-evaluated from the perspective of the practitioner's and the victim's embodiment in their experiential life-worlds via articles discussing Chinese exorcists, Javanese spirit siblings, Sumatran black magic, Tamil Tiger suicide bombers, Chamorro spiritual re-enchantment, tantric Buddhist war magic, and Yanomami dark shamans. Central themes include violence and healing, accomplished through ritual and performance, to unleash and/or control the power of gods, demons, ghosts and the dead.
Christopher Howard and Wendelin Küpers
The following article explores meanings and implications of mobile technologies and embodiment in a globally networked context. Drawing on ethnographic research on global travelers moving through Nepal and India, we focus on the role mobile technologies play in mediating perceptions and performances of place. Facilitated by contemporary media and mobility infrastructures, we suggest that mobile subjects are relationally “interplaced.” By introducing this notion, we aim to illustrate how forms of virtual mobility overlap with and impact actual, corporeal experience. Following Heidegger, we also develop a concept we call “digital Gestell” (enframement). Applying Heidegger’s reflection that technologies of a given historical epoch frame the way subjects approach the world, we can say that many people today are “digitally enframed.” Facing this increasingly technologized Being-in-the-world, we suggest an “ethos of Gelassenheit” for a more responsive and responsible awareness of the powers technologies hold on our perceptions and actions.