This WG aims to establish an international platform through which to share innovative and traditionally informed approaches to the methodological, epistemological, and ontological questions provoked by embodied research. These include some of the deepest assumptions that underpin scholarship in theatre and performance studies, such as the distinctions between theory and practice, subject and object, body and mind, techne and episteme.
Dr Ben Spatz, Senior Lecturer, University of Huddersfield
The Embodied Research Working Group supports individual and collaborative research projects in which embodied practice is an explicit and essential part of the methodology. While embodiment has been a major interest for theatre and other scholars across several decades at least, the claim that embodied practice can constitute a mode or method of academic research is relatively new and in some contexts is still considered controversial. This WG aims to establish an international platform through which to share innovative and traditionally informed approaches to the methodological, epistemological, and ontological questions provoked by embodied research. These include some of the deepest assumptions that underpin scholarship in theatre and performance studies, such as the distinctions between theory and practice, subject and object, body and mind, techne and episteme.
The founding members of the proposed WG bring to the collective table a set of articulated research practices based on a conception of theatre as a privileged site for understanding and innovating embodiment and embodied practice. Recent IFTR conferences have involved significant discussion of embodiment, embodied practice, and embodied research as these relate to diverse theoretical and historiographical methods. The new WG will create a context at IFTR in which embodied knowledge and research are foregrounded as legitimate contributors to the field. The WG will support IFTR’s institutional goals by developing interdisciplinary and intercultural connections that place performing arts in dynamic contact with physical culture, health and healing, and the embodied practices of everyday life. By modelling new modes of assessment and legitimization for these expanded fields of knowledge, the WG will strive to make embodied research more legible within IFTR and in broader academic and social contexts. Our emphasis on sharing methods for embodied research will be realized through an experimental approach to knowledge exchange that combines written papers, practical workshops and demonstrations, and audiovisual media.
The new WG will organize its activities according to the following thematic strands:
1) Embodied Practice. The WG will devise new strategies for sharing embodied knowledge at IFTR and for positioning/articulating the practicing (theatre) body as a site of knowledge production and transmission. It will address the disciplinary mapping of embodied practice and the ways in which conceptual and discursive maps are implicitly incorporated within structures of practice. Drawing on theatrical, pedagogical, and empirical models, members will develop new modes of practical encounter that allow for high-level exchange as well as making the depth and diversity of embodied knowledge legible to wider audiences.
2) Multimedia Publication. The WG will explore traditional and alternative modes of publication for embodied research, including print and online articles and books, multimedia web platforms, and video essays. It will explore and experiment with the media and formats in which embodied research can be shared and archived across time and space, engaging with current debates around performance documentation and the challenges of archiving of embodied knowledge. Members will incorporate elements of practical skill-sharing into their IFTR presentations, learning together how to make use of emerging publication tools and media to articulate their embodied research.
3) Interdisciplinary Connections. Moving outwards from its core focus, the WG will examine the role of embodied research in the context of interdisciplinary projects that draw on scholarship in performance philosophy, theatre historiography, anthropology and sociology of the body, cognitive studies, gender and sexuality studies, critical race and (dis)ability studies, studies of religion, war, medicine, and other fields in which the body is foregrounded conceptually. Members will share and examine cases studies as well as developing new models for interdisciplinary collaboration.
4) Institutional Frameworks. In addition to the epistemo-ontological issues raised by embodied research, there are a host of practical and strategic concerns. Recognizing that vast amounts of embodied expertise and innovation are currently housed within professional organizations — such as those of martial arts, yoga, bodywork, mindfulness, and expressive arts therapies — the WG will consider strategies for development new institutional frameworks that bridge academia and professional practice through engagements with key concerns like rigor, authenticity, lineage, archive, and commerce.
Taken together, these strategies and activities will intervene in current epistemological and ontological debates and contribute to the development of new research methodologies based in embodied practice. Over time, the WG aims to effectively expand and legitimize embodied research within and beyond the context of theatre and performance studies.