Exploring the embodied basis of being through Merleau-Ponty and dance: a conversation between philosophy and practice

Purser, Aimie Christianne Elizabeth. (2008) Exploring the embodied basis of being through Merleau-Ponty and dance: a conversation between philosophy and practice. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Merleau-Ponty suggests that a non-dualistic understanding of embodied being must start from a theory of embodied practice. This allows us to think in terms of a body-subject, rather than seeing the body as object, and thus to consider embodiment as the basis of subjectivity and intersubjectivity. Further to this, I contend that if we are to truly move away from dualism in our understanding of human being, we need not only to conceptualise embodiment adequately in philosophical terms, but also to engage with lived embodied practice.

This thesis ‘fleshes out’ embodiment theory through an approach which brings Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy into conversation with the experiential accounts of professional contemporary dance practitioners, accessed through in-depth qualitative interviews. In bringing together a philosophy (Merleau-Ponty) which is rooted in the notion of embodied practice, and an embodied practice (contemporary dance) which both grounds and is grounded in philosophically interesting themes such as subjectivity, identity, intersubjectivity, expression and communication, this conversational method allows mutual illumination and opens up a new conceptual space for the exploration of the embodied basis of being. This project therefore emphasises the seeking out of links and common ground between the two interlocutors rather than offering a reductive critique.

The conversation between philosophy and practice covers four main areas where the dancers’ reflections on their (embodied capacities for) practical knowledge, subjectivity, intersubjectivity, and representation are explored in relation to Merleau-Ponty’s conceptualisations of the corporeal schema, intercorporeality and flesh [la chair]. It is argued that this conversational approach functions to open up a space which lies in-between the traditional dualisms of mind and body, philosophy and practice, and theory and data, and allows me to develop and explore new ideas, connections, perspectives and understandings of the embodied basis of being that a different methodological approach would not have facilitated to the same extent.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Murphy, E.A.
James, V.C.
Keywords: Dance
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation. Leisure
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Sociology and Social Policy
Item ID: 13738
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2013 08:32
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2017 16:02
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/13738

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