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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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The pain would enterher armas she laid hands on the person. The setting was a CatholicCharismatichealing session conductedby a healer who was also a trainedpsychotherapist,and who made particularuse of “bodywork”techniques.

Adoptingthe categoriesof Peirceiansemiotics, Daniel describesthe initialrelation betweenthe physician’s passive fingertipsandthe patient’spulse as indexical-in theircontact,they indexeach otheras normalor abnormal. Excess of joy weeps… Exuberance is Beauty. To suggest thatthey areforms of “embodiedknowledge”is provocative,but doesn’t necessarilycapturethe intersubjectivenatureof the phenomenawe have described. The problem,requiredby the uncollapsedor uncollapsible duality of the “in itself” being and”foritself’ existenceis having to distinguishgenuine, transcendentexpression from reiteration.

Somatic Modes of Attention

Conclusion Approachingculturalphenomena from the standpointof embodimenthas allowed us 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 mides, self and other.

Despite these differences,the experiencesreportedby the two types of healer arenotablysimilar,althoughespiritistacategoriesdescribingthese experiencesare even more explicit in distinguishing sensory modalities than the Charismatic anointingsand words of knowledge.

The indeterminacyin our analytic categories is revealedwhen we encounter phenomenaas essentially ambiguousas somatic modes of attention. Our elaborationof this construct will provide the groundsfor a reflection on the essential ambiguityof our own analyticconcepts, as well as on the conceptualstatusof “indeterminacy”in the paradigmof embodi- ment and in contemporaryethnography.


Why did Csordas choose to explore an embodiment framework through healing? In contrast,theparadigmof embodiment means not that cultures have the same structureas bodily experience, but that embodied experience is the startingpoint for analyzinghumanparticipationin a culturalworld.

One moeds snappingin his earmeans someone in the assembly is undergoingan earhealing,andthatintensepainin his heartmeansa hearthealing. Bourdieu’s concern with the body, worked out in the empirical domain of practice, is parallel and compatible with Merleau-Ponty’s analysis in the domainof perception. Unrevealedpregnanciescan be manifestin the bodily experiencesof others: InternationalJournalof Psychiatryin Medicine The Primacy of Perception.

Turner,Bryan The Body and Society.

Somatic Modes of Attention — Cultural Anthropology

First,consideranointings,words of knowledge, videncias,andplasmaciones as kinds of intuition. Because attentionimplies both sensory engagementand an object, we must emphasizethatourworkingdefinitionrefersbothto attending”with”andattending “to”the body. To define somatic modes of csords such broad terms would probablyonly serve to organize a variety of existing literaturesinto an overbroadcategory.

If thatis so, thenprocesses in which we attend to andobjectifyourbodies shouldhold a particularinterest. Couvadehas been understoodin one of two ways in the literature. He has conducted ethnographic research with Charismatic Catholics, Navajo Indians, and adolescents in the American Southwest on topics including therapeutic process in religious healing, ritual language and creativity, sensory imagery, self transformation, techniques of the body, causal reasoning about illness, and the experience of psychiatric inpatients.

Although I would not rule out any of these experiences for Anglo-American charismatics,it is doubtfulthatthey would be cultivatedwithintheirsomaticmode of attention.

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Attending to others’bodilymovementsis even more clearcutin cases of dancing,makinglove, playing team sports, and in the uncanny sense of a presenceover one’s shoulder. The imaginal rehearsal of bodily movements by athletes is a highly elaboratedsomaticmode of attention,as is the heightenedsensitivityto muscle tone and the appetite for motion associated with health-consciousnessand habitual exercise.

Somatic Modes of Attention | Thomas Csordas –

Thus, couvade is eitherexoticized as a primitive charade,or pathologizedas a psychosomaticoveridentification. In the present context, I can only point to this problem by briefly summarizing the This content downloaded from These areeither good attfntion spirits, called guias, or bad, distress-causingspirits, called causas.

On the level of perception thereis not yet a subject-objectdistinction-we are simply in the world. Sincethattime,I amgratefulto JanisJenkinsforongoingscholarlydiscussionthat challengedmeto refinemy argument.

Most important,he argues that such experiences are communicationfrom patients,and againsttraditionaltheoriesof countertrans- ference thatimpugnthem as pathologicalreactionsof the therapist.

I restrictthe discussion in this section to the Charismaticand espiritistarevelatory phenomenadescribedabove. Excess of sorrow laughs. Klein, Hilary Couvade Syndrome: On the one hand, it is thoughtof as a ratherodd custom in which the man “simulates”or “imitates”labor Broude ; Dawson ; Munroeet al.

How is the notion of affect helpful or relevant to your work? What other sorts of ethnographic evidence does Csordas use, and why?