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”
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”
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”
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.