Somatic Modes of Attention Author(s): Thomas J. Csordas Source: Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 8, No. 2 (May, ), pp. Published by: Wiley on behalf of. Somatic Modes of Attention Author(s): Thomas J. Csordas Reviewed work(s): Source: Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 8, No. 2 (May, ), pp. Somatic Modes of Attention Thomas J. Csordas DepartmentofAnthropology Case WesternReserve University. Embodimentas a paradigmor methodological.
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Reconceivedas a somatic mode of attention, it appears instead as a phenomenon of embodied intersubjectivitythat is performativelyelaboratedin certain societies, while it is either neglected or fearedas abnormalin others.
Koss, Joan The Experience of Spirits: The most basic thing to attend to is tone of voice see Jenkins on expressed emotion.
Somatic Modes of Attention | Thomas Csordas –
Nevertheless, because for anthropology embodimentis not yet developedenough to be trulycomplementaryto an already maturetextuality Hanksthis articlehas the limitedaim of takinga measured step towardfilling out embodimentas a methodologicalfield.
Sensation is inherentlyempiricist,however, and forces a con- ceptionof culturalmeaningas referentialmeaningimposedon a sensory substrate. For example, the influentialsynthesis by Scheper-Hughesand Lock somafic lays out the analyticalterrainclaimed by an anthropologyof the body.
One healerreportedthata snappingin his earmeans someone in the assembly is undergoingan earhealing,andthatintensepainin his heartmeansa hearthealing. Instead,he arguedthat the perceptualsynthesis of the objectis accomplishedby the subject,which is the body as a field of perception andpractice Third is your own gut feelings ranging from anxiety to elation — ethnography itself includes a somatic mode of o.
Merleau-Ponty,on the other hand, insists on the a priorinecessity of intersubjec- tivity,pointing out that any actor’s adoptionof a position presupposeshis or her being situatedin an intersubjectiveworld, and thatscience itself is upheld by this basic doxa. It is a truismthat, althoughour bodies are always present,we do not always attendto and with them.
In addition,it does not addressthe problemthat we have no independentway of “perceiving”unconscious processes so as to verify what is being perceivedin revelatoryphenomena.
This is doubtlessrelatedto the discoveryof existentialandmethodologi- cal indeterminacyin recentethnographicwriting cf. Conclusion Approachingculturalphenomena from the standpointof embodimenthas allowed modse to define a constructof somatic modes of attention,which has in tur led us to a principleof indeterminacythat underminesdualities between subject and object, mind and body, self and other.
I restrictthe discussion in this section to the Csogdas espiritistarevelatory phenomenadescribedabove. Adoptingthe categoriesof Peirceiansemiotics, Daniel describesthe initialrelation betweenthe physician’s passive fingertipsandthe patient’spulse as indexical-in theircontact,they indexeach otheras normalor abnormal.
Here, Bourdieu’s analysis of universes of practice subsisting alongside universes of discourse provides a corrective, forcing us to generalizethis sedimentationfrom languageto the restof the habitus, and to acknowledge Merleau-Ponty’sproblem as endemic to his conception of existence. This indeter- minacy, it turns out, is an essential element of our existence. Fourth, remember the words of William Blake: Could he have analyzed other ethnographic settings to make his argument?
Frank,Gelya On Embodiment: Ironically,the approachthroughembodimentthathas allowed us to elaborate somaticmodes of attentionas a constructwith some demonstrableempiricalvalue has also disclosed the rather slippery notion of the essential indeterminacyof existence.
Fijiansregardit as essential thata woman makeher pregnancy known publicly, lest the power of its secrecy result in boats capsizing,contamina- tion of food, and the spoiling of groupendeavors. It is evident that some of these examples suggest more or less spontaneous culturalelaboration,whereasotherssuggest modes thatare consciously cultivated cf.
However, there are serious conceptual differences betweenthe two theoriststhatput this interpretationin doubt. Medical AnthropologyQuar- terly 2: What other sorts of ethnographic evidence does Csordas use, and why?
Somatic Modes of Attention
If such modes of attentionare general phenomenaof human consciousness, we would expect that they can be identified in other domainsas well. An Archaeologyof Medical Perception. Thus, one is payingattentionwith one’s body. If, for example, affect is defined primarily as intensity see Massumi it appears as inherently impersonal, a function of automatons rather than people.
From the perspectiveof embodiment,however, the notion of indexical distance is too abstract,and the semiotic analysis allows only the conclusion that suffering is shared “in some sense. All of these wouldbe interestingdeterminations, but would not suit the aims of a culturalphenomenology. Kir- mayer and Ots MeaningfulAction ConsideredAs a Text. Therearecertainly somatic modes of attention to basic bodily processes, such as pregnancy and menopause, in different cultures. It is the fundamentalindeterminacyof existence thatis sensed as missing by those anthropologistsattractedto the postmodernistmethodologicalshift from patternto pastiche,from key symbols to blurredgenres.
Medical AnthropologyQuarterly NS 6: