Interdisciplinary Conference Theme:
“Life Phenomenology: Movement, Affect & Language”
We understand phenomenology to be challenged by pressing questions of life, of living with others of a human and other-than-human kind, of the quality of our relations with others, and of speaking, writing and acting in authentic, life-affirming ways. Across the academic disciplines and fields of study where the human sciences have taken root, a most pressing task is to re-awaken a phenomenological attitude and mobilize the methodological resources of the human sciences in service of the movements, affects and languages of life.
- How might phenomenology have us recognize a primacy of movement and bring us in touch with the motions and gestures of the multiple lifeworlds of daily living? What worlds from ecology to technology privilege certain animations?
- What are the affects and effects of an enhanced phenomenological sensitivity?
- What senses, feelings, emotions and moods of self-affirmation and responsiveness to others sustain us in our daily lives?
- To what extent might the descriptive, invocative, provocative language of phenomenology infuse the human sciences and engender a language for speaking directly of life?
To help navigate us through such questions, a panel of experts has been gathered whose research entwines various conceptions of language that speak to the pressing questions of life. Here are their initial thoughts to the conference theme, utterances that we share to prime our face-to-face conference encounters.
Maxine Sheets-Johnstone: Phenomenology leads us when we hew to its rigorous methodology and thus meet the challenges of languaging experience. Since phenomenological analyses are tethered to experience, they require fleshing out what Husserl consistently termed but did not fully investigate, namely, affect and action, i.e., emotion and movement. Consistent phenomenological practice and further investigation of affect and action result in enhanced phenomenological sensitivity to feelings, emotions, moods, and movement, as we experience them ourselves and as we experience them in others. Being true to the truths of experience, phenomenological studies complement scientific studies, and this precisely because they consistently elucidate the realities of life, what dynamic systems researchers term ‘real-life, real-time’ experience. Dynamics are at the core of these complementarities, as in the complementarity between what in the life sciences is identified as “responsivity” and what in phenomenology is identified as “interest” and “turning toward.”
Ralph Acampora: My sense is that the issue of language is central here—what, in particular, does different diction help convey? Can philosophy, in its disciplinary demeanors of phenomenology and hermeneutics, do something besides ideational carving or concept-chopping? Images, for instance, are considered by most professional philosophers as extrinsic to the real theoretical labor of a philosophy’s discursive expression. Conventional wisdom posits that philosophers are supposed to present conceptual truth, and that to focus on images is to dwell in a kind of ornament that only literature is permitted to indulge. Yet this view imports (e.g. Platonic) metaphysics that I would explicitly call into question. Michele Le Doeuff’s work, for example, demonstrates that images are not only rhetorically interesting but that, despite various philosophers’ protests to the contrary, imagery plays an essential role in the properly philosophic development of ideas. In this light, then, one of my chief goals is to enable an appreciation for the philosophic purposes of metaphoric expression by critiquing particularly problematic terms used in the regular language of philosophy and by illuminating (via neologism e.g.) different paths for others to follow.
David Abram: Language accrues not only to those entities deemed “alive” by modern standards, but to all sensible phenomena. All things have the ability to communicate something of themselves to other beings. Indeed, what is perception if not the experience of this gregarious, communicative power of things, wherein even ostensibly “inert” objects radiate out of themselves, conveying their shapes, hues, and rhythms to other beings and to us, influencing and informing our breathing bodies though we stand far apart from those things? Not just animals and plants, then, but tumbling waterfalls and dry riverbeds, gusts of wind, compost piles and cumulus clouds, freshly painted houses(as well as houses abandoned and sometimes haunted), rusting automobiles, feathers, granitic cliffs and grains of sand, tax forms, dormant volcanoes, bays and bayous made wretched by pollutants, snowdrifts, shed antlers, diamonds, and daikon radishes, are all expressive, sometimes eloquent, and hence participant in the mystery of language. Our own chatter erupts in response to the abundant articulations of the world: human speech is simply our part of a much broader conversation.
— Becoming Animal, p. 172
Scott Churchill: “Genuine phenomenology is itself a practice – and never just an intellectual pursuit – by which one discovers and celebrates one’s own immersion in a flux of experience that is the true source of all that we come to know and believe regarding the world. It consists in the realization that it
is precisely one’s own presence to the world that is the illuminating source and matrix of all that we come to understand about life. It draws us back to the ways in which the world resonates with our experiencing (or at least, it points us in this direction). And it is this resonance with the world that we learn to trust as informing our reflections on whatever it is that surrounds us, and how it is that we are challenged to comport ourselves vis-à-vis our surroundings.” [excerpted from “Empathy, Intercorporeality, and the Call to Compassion [Book review of Ralph Acampora’s Corporal Compassion: Animal Ethics and Philosophy of Body.]
Stephen Smith: “I concluded a recent article with the following lines that, “inspired by an improvisatory, tactful contact with another and roused by Lingis’ summoning to a vital contact with alterities that move us to speak and write differently, we heed the agogic accent of pedagogy as a telling connection of vital sustenance amidst individual, linguistic and cultural differences. We can come to hear and mouth a fascination with the accents of multilingualism and construe pedagogy as the most telling accent of the place and time of others. Pedagogy is essentially and sensuously the accent on a moment of vital contact with another before that moment is framed within the regulatory spaces of schooling and instruction. Pedagogy is essentially tactful, improvisatory and multilingual. Less a way of being unto oneself, and more a sense of becoming otherwise, attuned to others’ motions and correlative emotions, pedagogical relationality can be formed and deeply informed by practices and disciplines of corporeal responsivity” (A pedagogy of vital contact, Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices, 6, 2, p. 243). In this article and other work, I explore the accents, tones and gestures of agogic relations that pertain to interhuman and wider interspecies realms. Life phenomenology becomes a means of addressing the intercorporeal dynamics of such relations whereby we can get beyond the language games of presuming the speech of others or speaking for them and, instead, become moved to act and speak with others who do not share the mother tongue let alone the human one.”
Celeste Snowber: “Language originates through orality, where it resounds in the belly and breath, throat and tongue, and syllables and sentences form through our mouths. Writing too often has become separated from the physicality of the body, yet there is a way to return to the grammar of the gut. The interconnection between language, breath, motion, and gesture becomes a living studio to
manifest the deep flow of creativity. We are the living studio.” C. Snowber in “Visceral Creativity: Organic Creativity in Teaching/Arts Dance Education”, in Organic Creativity, Ed. by J. Piirto, Waco, TX: Prufrock Press, 2014, p. 261.
“The body has a pronouncement all to itself, which is felt in the lived experience of fingers and toes, shoulders and hips, through the heart of veins and on the breath of limbs. This is truly the wisdom of the body. We all know this in our body memory: the flutter in the chest, the stomach turning, the energy of excitement in our throat, the expanse in our pelvis. The body responds when we encounter another human being, animal or creation. We are an embodied people, and the body continues to respond with a remarkable vocabulary as we move through the world. “ C. Snowber in “Dancing on the Breath of Limbs: Embodied Inquiry as a Place of Opening,” in Dance, Somatics and Spiritualities. Ed. by A. Williamson, G. Batson, S. Whatley, R. Weber, Bristol, UK/Chicago, Intellect, 2014, p. 119-120.
Rebecca Lloyd: “Heidegger’s interpretation of Nietzsche’s philosophy as being ‘inverted Platonism’ influenced Rorty’s (1989) thinking about ‘self-overcoming’ when faced with adversity and the possibilities for ‘giving birth to oneself’ (p. 29). The particular path Rorty suggested was to become a strong poet with respect to changing the metaphors by which we live. Metaphors, in this sense, represent descriptors that pick up our idiosyncratic tendencies, and are words that capture an essence of who we are and what we intend to be. While certainly one might choose to focus on the ‘metaphors’ in the purposeful act in re-writing one’s lived existence, it might also be worthwhile, especially considering the intention of desiring the re-emergence of flow within the bounds of life’s constraints, to attend to one’s verbs and adjectives, action-oriented words that attend to how we move through life. Metaphors describe things, nouns, a fixed knowledge. Verbs and adjectives, on the other hand, carry the phrases, intonations, temporality, projections and tensions, hence the pulse of life that swells, surges, rises, crests or fades. Phenomenologist Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (1999), who was very much influenced by psychologist Daniel Stern (2004, 2010) describes such verbs and adjectives as ‘vitality affects’ and contends that such affects live within all movement forms, from simple walks down the street to the most intricate of dance sequences.” Rebecca J. Lloyd (2015) From Dys/Function to Flow: Inception, Perception and Dancing Beyond Life’s Constraints, The Humanistic Psychologist, 43:1, 24-39, DOI: 10.1080/08873267.2014.952416 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08873267.2014.952416
Biographies of Keynote, Invited Speakers & Conference Chair
Maxine Sheets-Johnstone is an interdisciplinary scholar affiliated with the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oregon where she holds an ongoing Courtesy Professor appointment and where she taught periodically in the Department in the 1990s. She has lectured widely in Europe, most notably at the University of Aarhus, at Ghent University, and at the University of Copenhagen at the Center for Subjectivity Research, the Department of Sport, and the Niels Bohr Institute. She received her B.A. in French and Comparative Literature from the University of California at Berkeley,
and her M.A. in Dance and her Ph.D. in Dance and Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin. She studied for but did not complete a second doctorate in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Wisconsin. She was a professor of dance, choreographer/performer, and dance scholar for a number of years prior to her professorship in philosophy. She has published over 70 articles in humanities, art, and science journals. Her first book was The Phenomenology of Dance (University of Wisconsin Press, 1966; 50th anniversary edition with new preface, Temple University Press, 2015). Her latest book is Putting Movement Into Your Life: A Beyond Fitness Primer (Kindle e-book 2010; Amazon paperback 2013). The Corporeal Turn: An Interdisciplinary Reader (Imprint Academic, 2009) and three “roots” books–The Roots of Thinking (Temple University Press, 1990), The Roots of Power: Animate Form and Gendered Bodies (Chicago: Open Court, 1994), and The Roots of Morality (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008)–occupy a space between these publications, as does The Primacy of Movement (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing,1999; 2nd expanded ed. 2011), Giving the Body Its Due (New York: State University of New York Press, 1992), and Illuminating Dance: Philosophical Explorations (Bucknell University Press, 1985). The Roots of Power was nominated by Ashley Montagu for an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Two of her books—The Roots of Thinking and The Primacy of Movement–were featured in Book Review Sessions at meetings of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy. Professor Sheets-Johnstone was a Distinguished Fellow in residence in the inaugural year of the Institute for Advanced Study, Durham University, UK, 2007, the theme of which was “The Legacy of Charles Darwin.” She received an Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Wisconsin, School of Education, in 2011.
Ralph Acampora is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Hofstra University in New York. He conducts research in the fields of environmental philosophy, bioethics, and animal studies. After earning a B.A./M.A. at CUNY, Acampora gained his doctorate at Emory University (writing a dissertation on inter-species ethics and phenomenology of body). He has authored Corporal Compassion: Animal Ethics and Philosophy of Body (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006: www.upress.pitt.edu/BookDetails.aspx?bookId=35804), edited Metamorphoses of the Zoo: Animal Encounter After Noah (Lexington Books, 2010), and co-edited A Nietzschean Bestiary: Becoming Animal Beyond Docile and Brutal (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003). He has published work in a variety of books and journals, referees for Environmental Ethics, and is a member of the editorial board for Society & Animals. Recent interests of his include the hermeneutics of spectatorship at zoos, moral issues pertaining to the built (including biotechnical) environment, and the ontological status of nature.
David Abram, cultural ecologist and geophilosopher, is the author of Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology and The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World. Hailed as “revolutionary” by the Los Angeles Times, as “daring” and “truly original” by Science, David’s work helped catalyzed the emergence of several new disciplines, including the burgeoning field of ecopsychology. His essays on the cultural causes and consequences of
environmental disarray are published in numerous magazines, scholarly journals, and anthologies. Named by both the Utne Reader and the British journal Resurgence as one of a hundred visionaries currently transforming the world, David has been a recipient of the international Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction, as well as fellowships from the Watson and Rockefeller Foundations. In 2014 he held the international Arne Naess Chair in Global Justice and Ecology at the University of Oslo. Co-founder of the Alliance for Wild Ethics (AWE), David lives with his family in the foothills of the southern Rockies.
Stephen Smith (IHSRC conference committee) is the Associate Dean of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. Stephen researches matters of wellness and vitality, curricular and instructional practices in health and physical education, and the somatics of teacher education. Drawing upon human sciences methodologies, he has investigated the acquisition of movement competence and the means whereby children, youth and adults are taught to become physically proficient. His writings explore gesture theory and its nuanced applications to interspecies relationships. His work is also featured on www.function2flow.ca.
Scott D. Churchill (IHSRC conference committee) is a Professor of Psychology and Human Sciences at the University of Dallas, and Fellow of the American Psychological Association. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of The Humanistic Psychologist, past President of the Society for Humanistic Psychology, former Secretary-Treasurer of the Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, and founding member of the Society for Qualitative Inquiry, on whose executive committee he currently serves as liaison to APA’s Division 5. Dr. Churchill continues to serve on the editorial boards for several journals, and has presented seminars and workshops on phenomenological and hermeneutic methods in the USA, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Australia, and India. His recent work has included reflections on empathy and the “second person perspective” in a variety of contexts, ranging from human-bonobo interaction to qualitative research interviews to the experience of film and caring for the elderly. The American Psychological Association presented him in 2013 with its “Mike Arons and E. Mark Stern Award for Outstanding Lifetime Service to the Society for Humanistic Psychology” ; and, i n 2014 he was co-named with the University of Dallas Psychology Department as recipient of the APA’s “Charlotte and Karl Bühler Award for Significant and Lasting Contributions to Humanistic Psychology.”
Celeste Snowber, Ph.D. is a dancer, writer, poet and educator, who is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. She has written over fifty essays and poetry in various journals and chapters in books in the areas of the embodiment, arts and arts-based research and is author of Embodied Prayer and co-author of Landscapes in Aesthetic Education. Celeste has pioneered ways of writing from the body within the academy and is a sought after mentor for graduate students and teaches in arts education cohorts, health education cohorts as well as with pre-service teachers. Celeste continues to create/perform site-specific work in connection to the natural world and is passionate about creating from experiences of daily life. She performed a full-length show, entitled “Woman giving birth to a red pepper,” that explores themes about sexuality and spirituality and her next full length show will be entitled, “I am not my knee,” after her knee replacement. Celeste is the mother of three amazing adult sons and lives outside Vancouver, B.C. Her website can be found at www.celestesnowber.com and bodypsalms blog at www.bodypsalms.com.
Rebecca Lloyd (IHSRC conference chair) is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa. Her interdisciplinary research intertwines curriculum theory, phenomenology, pedagogy, motivational psychology, movement consciousness, and exercise physiology. Her SSHRC-funded research explores this interdisciplinary integration through the ‘function2flow’ (http://function2flow.ca/) model, a framework that facilitates curricular and pedagogical understandings of becoming physically educated in alternative and mainstream activities. Rebecca promotes positive and meaningful physical activity through her teachings, outreach activities in local schools, and her role as the co-director of the Comprehensive School Health cohort of pre-service teachers (http://uottawa-comprehensive-school-health.ca/). She is also a leader in several academic communities and has assumed the position of conference chair with Physical and Health Education (PHE) Canada and the Physical Education Teacher Education (PHETE) SIG within CSSE. Her international affiliations include the International Physical Literacy Association (IPLA) and the International Human Science Research Conference (IHSRC). She is delighted to host the 35th International Human Science Research Conference and looks forward to creating a welcoming, open, creative, and thought-provoking environment so that many types and kinds of conversations unfold.