What should go into a Somatic Toolkit? Inspirations from the CultureMoves project

This blog post reflects on essential ingredients for a ‘somatics toolkit’ based on the  experience of the CultureMoves project.  CultureMoves develops a series of digital tools and services that enable new forms of touristic engagement and educational resources. One of the outputs is an online toolkit that provides dance artists and arts professionals with access to Europeana dance content and information sources, and also serves as inspiration to help structure and rethink learning opportunities within dance education. 

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Doerte: Europe’s thoughts on the Toolkit: Feedback from Lisbon, Berlin and Madrid

How can we best share what we’re developing with the Somatics Toolkit? Since I joined the project in May 2018, I have worked on project impact activities. Over the last few weeks, I travelled to Lisbon, Berlin and Madrid to raise awareness for the Somatics Toolkit in a broader European context and collect feedback on how we’re doing things. The three events I participated in were: ‘Why the World Needs Anthropologists’ (WWNA for short) in Lisbon; the 5th International Fascia Research Congress(FRC) in Berlin; and the ‘We Are All Able Bodies’ (AAB) in Madrid.

The symposium series ‘Why the World Needs Anthropologists’ (WWNA) is organised by dedicated volunteers passionate about applied anthropology, who bring together researchers and practitioners to explore the diverse applications of anthropology beyond traditional academia.

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Episode 02: Jerome Lewis on Learning about a culture through physical participation

Doctor Jerome Lewis from University College London talks with Eline Kieft about using his body as part of his research to better understand the lives of hunter-gatherers in Central Africa.

Bonus content

If you enjoyed Jerome’s interview as much as we did, here are some extra clips of him describing his amazing experiences researching the cultures of hunter-gatherers in Central Africa.

Being embodied in a duiker’s body

Speaking to the fish

Understanding people through their dance

Learning to marsh walk

The mystical power of blood

Menstruation leading to gendered labour division

Fatima Adamu: Em-Body-Ing an Other-ed Body

Photo by Susan Fenton (2004)

In order to consider my contribution to the somatics toolkit, it was important that I reflect on my personal relationship with embodied practices. As a woman who inhabits a body of “color”, a meditation on somatics inevitably brings to mind reflections of how my body is perceived in the societies within which it moves. This was not always the case; as an adolescent growing up the in Muslim North of Nigeria, my main somatic preoccupations were on to how much of my skin was covered, and less on its hue. More important than how my body felt or moved, was the looseness of my clothing, its opaqueness and contours reducing any defining characteristics of femininity to a mere chaste whisper, a secret to be hinted at but never reveled in or enjoyed with overt pleasure. more “Fatima Adamu: Em-Body-Ing an Other-ed Body”

Eline: Bringing research activities into the body

Over the last twelve months I talked to many people about this project. When I explain the two strands addressed by our Toolkit, people immediately get its potential contribution to mental and emotional wellbeing. However, explaining how the body can be applied to the very concrete activities of research seems much harder to grasp.

Whether or not you choose ethnography as an approach, every research will engage with the following phases in the ‘life cycle’ of the project: more “Eline: Bringing research activities into the body”

Ben: The politics of somatics

Helping to develop this “Somatics Toolkit” has been challenging for me. My research these days is devoted to thinking about the political implications of embodied practices. When we practice yoga or martial arts, when we sing or dance, when we attend to our bodies — how are we also contributing to public understandings of embodiment, knowledge, identity, and power?

So much of the discourse around embodied practice has to do with letting go of unrealistic attachments to the large-scale social repercussions of our individual actions. While we worry about the increase of racist and nationalist movements around the globe and the continuing destruction of ecologies and mass extinctions of plants and animals, it is easy to feel paralyzed and disembodied — perhaps even disassociated. In that sense, somatic practices can be understood as a necessary part of personal healing. When the work of the world is simply too much, I can stop and put my attention back on my breath, my balance, the sensation of having skin. This is another way of being in the world, which we forget at our grave peril.

But many discussions of somatics go further than this, suggesting that such practices do more than simply heal the individual. Can the “return to the body” be linked to a broader return to more ecological consciousness? Can the somatic be healing not just to individual bodies but at the communal or even social level? Can there be a politics of somatics? I believe there can be, but this does not happen automatically, it has to be consciously developed. more “Ben: The politics of somatics”

Eline: The body as research instrument

As long as I can remember I have been intrigued by the possibilities of using the body as tool for research. “Research with a Twist” was the original name of my seminar series that applied the body to any type of academic inquiry.

I am so excited that the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) saw (at least some) sense in this, and funded an 18-month project to further develop this together with Dr. Ben Spatz, initially for and with anthropology PhD students. Later we can hopefully roll it out to other stakeholder groups as well.

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