Storytelling & the Body
An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Project
Monday 15th July 2019 – Tuesday 16th July 2019
Workshop 1: Responsibilities and Obligations: Understanding Mitákuye Oyásʼiŋ
Racing Magpie, USA
Gothicizing Apotemnophilia: Live Burial, Secret Desire, and the Uncanny Body of the Amputee Wannabe
University of South Alabama, USA
apotemnophilia, amputation, desire, the drive, fort/da game, the Gothic, perversion, psychoanalysis, sexuality, the Uncanny
In May of 1998, a seventy-nine-year-old man from New York died of gangrene after having traveled to Tijuana to get a black-market leg amputation that cost him $10,000 and, ultimately, his life. In October of 1999, a man from Milwaukee cut off his arm with a homemade guillotine and told the surgeons he would cut it off again if they re-attached it. That same month a woman from California tied off her legs with tourniquets and packed them in ice, hoping to necessitate amputation. These amputee wannabes (or “apotemnophiles”) may sound like the stuff of fiction, but they exist in real life and their stories need to be heard.
Until Elliott’s essay “A New Way to Be Mad” appeared in the December 2000 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, I had never heard of apotemnophilia, nor had most the magazine’s readers. And yet a fairly sizeable group of people had been quietly and painfully living a gothic nightmare, buried alive in an uncanny body that both was and wasn’t theirs, housed in a claustrophobic flesh crowded with one or perhaps two limbs too many, obsessed with a secret desire to become an amputee, and tortured by unanswered (or, in some cases, inadequately posed) questions concerning identity and sexuality—questions lying at the very core of human subjectivity and the gothic text with its doublings and haunted spaces.
Using psychoanalysis (itself a gothic discourse with its exploration of family secrets, buried memories, hysterical fits, obsessive thoughts, fragmented bodies, false portraits and mirror stages) to explain the underlying structure of perversion at work in apotemnophilia, I will argue that the amputee wannabe is a perverse postmodern Prometheus, staging his or her own castration in an attempt to prop up a God (i.e., Father) who is only partially operant and, in so doing, stealing God’s thunder as creator of the human body. For instead of allowing the body’s “natural” contours to define his or her identity, this perverse postmodern Prometheus allows an “internal” vision of his or her identity to define the body’s contours. The story of the amputee wannabe is a gothic story of same and other collapsing into one, for the amputee wannabe is at once Dr. Frankenstein and his creature.
“When does the person become the body?”: Posthuman Bodies in Don DeLillo’s Zero K (2016)
North-West University, South-Africa
Zero K, posthumanism, posthuman body, life/death, human, art, language, immortality
In Don DeLillo’s latest novel, Zero K (2016), the question that is ultimately posed, is: “… what happens to a single human body when the forces of death and life join?” At the same time, the paradigm shift in the ontological and epistemological perception of the human body can be related to the challenges of the posthuman condition; thus implying a radical rethinking of the dominant, familiar humanist account of who ‘we’ are as human beings, and who we may be as immortal beings. Consequently this lead to questions like the following: (from a futuristic perspective) “Will posthumans need embodiment at all?” And: “Will the posthuman body still be shaped in terms of gender, race, age, class, (dis)ability and sexuality, among others?”
The narrator in the novel, Jeffrey Lockhart, is summoned by his father, Ross, to a mysterious compound, the “Convergence”, where Ross’s younger wife, Artis Martineau, is in the final stages of multiple sclerosis. The Convergence is a project as well as a scientific and spiritual movement, the mission of which is “to stretch the boundaries of what it means to be human – stretch and then surpass” (71). The aim is to preserve life through cryonic freezing until a future time when biomedical advances and new technologies can return humans to a life of transcendent promise.
Furthermore, DeLillo places explicit emphasis on the relationship between art, the body and death. The novel refers to “a new generation of earth art, with human bodies in states of suspended animation” (16). In the Convergence, Jeffrey has multiple encounters with macabre, naked and motionless figures: some of them decapitated, some mannequins, and some that appear to be humans in frozen form. This paper explores how the novel links the woman to death; the relationship between body, language and life/death; as well as the relationship between body, art and death, in the context of posthumanism.
Betwixt Bodies: Reflections on the Art of Jai Chuhan
Lancaster University, United Kingdom
This paper explores a selection of figurative paintings by the contemporary Indian-born British artist Jagjit (Jai) Chuhan. Working from life, photographs and studio sketches, Chuhan creates an array of representations of diverse human bodies distinguished by the intense use of colour and the frequently twisted and contorted positioning of torsos, limbs, organs, raw flesh, and facial features. These are visceral, provocative disfigurings and disembowlings. For me, what is most remarkable about her work though is the inclusion of time, a particular chronology. These are human bodies that are not posed as such, but rather which appear to be moving into positon, about to adopt a pose, caught in a not-yet-quite-ready, frozen in a pre-gestural fraction of a second. These bold but blurred bodies are interrupted, the arc of movement incomplete. In a current series still itself in the making, she presents a set of individual bodies seemingly suspended upside down as if waiting to be born, as if not yet emerged from the womb; or, perhaps, hanging in the air like meat on a hook. I suggest that this chronological imbrication of the work, this glimpsing and capturing of something still enfolding or unfolding itself, of the not-yet, suggests a ‘before’ and ‘after’ and thereby lends her work a narrative structure and character. Betwixt and between, these are bodies with and within stories.
Tattoo Narratives Behind Bars
University of Bucharest, Romania
tattoos, body art, body modification project, prison, structuralism, poststructuralism, feminism.
Prison tattoos have a strong representation in popular culture, in contrast to the academic sphere. While the phenomenon has been researched in countries like USA or Russia , there is very ittle or no research in other European countries. If the context is arguably similar, still the cultural (both national and institutional) influence over the mannifestation of tattoos merits more attention. According to a survey from 2007 57% of men and 56% of women from prison in Romania have tattoos, and from these 48% of men and 17% of women had their tattoo work done in prison. As of yet there is no research dedicated to the interpretation of this data.
It is the intention of the present qualitative study to outline a preliminary analysis of the narrative prison tattoos tell amongst incarcerated women in Romnia. I will address the subject mainly from a structuralist and poststructutalist perspective (rooted in Goffman, Fucault and feminist critique), considering the body as a field for the manifestations of power relations between the individual and the institution of prison. In a context where the social agent is subjected to constant surveilance and his or her liberties are considerably constricted, the body can become the field of preferance for regaining a sense of self-control.
I will focus on the communicative function of tattoos, hoping to anwser the following research questions: What messages do prison tattoos convey about the identity and status of the wearer? How do prison tattoos incorporate feminity in the context of the generically patriarchal prison system? Finally, for the data collection, I will conduct a field research amongst the female prison population in Romanian, taking semi-structured interviews from volunteers.
Performing History in the Trinidad Carnival: Breaking Barriers and (Re)telling History Across Post-Colonial Borders
University of South Florida, USA
Independent Researcher, Trinidad and Tobago
Embodied performance, Trinidad Carnival, barriers, borders, cultural performance, cultural histories, post-colonial, cultural geographies.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the festival of Carnival is celebrated as one big island party. Trinidadians welcome people from around the world, annually, to participate in the Carnival the two days before Ash Wednesday. Masqueraders (participants) and revelers (observers) embrace this unique celebration of performing history and culture. Bruner (1991) informs that meaning is constructed through the (re)telling of one’s narrative and each year, the performance of and participation in the Trinidad Carnival reinforces the way(s) in which our lives are storied, and the way(s) in which cultural histories are (re)told.
This presentation seeks to inform how the embodied performance of the Trinidad carnival is a way of (re)telling and doing a cultural experience that cuts across borders and boundaries of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion. When Trinidadians perform the Carnival, the body functions as a site of resistance transcending histories and cultures through the performance of a cultural event. When masqueraders perform in the carnival, the body functions as a site of resistance, transcending histories and cultures through the performance of a cultural event that bridges the gap between identity and memory. Finally, through the embodied performance of the carnival, we can understand the human experience through human (inter)action to better understand how we come to know who we are and articulate the kinds of interventions necessary to advance knowledges within and outside the academy.
Revelations in Class and Gender Encountered in Character Clothing
Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi, India
Indraprastha College for Women, India
body, burden, clothing, class, literature
Verona, Italy, swims to the surface of my mind on the body of Petruchio, the swaggering vagabond from William Shakespeare’s play, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. His marriage arranged, he is atop a stuttering horse, a rusted sword against his hip and shifty boots on his feet. A brilliant drama ensues, and his declaration that Kate is marrying the man, and not the clothes, may be considered a ripe summation of the space of skin in a class divided society. The body filling out a Dickensian pauper’s cuffed and clinched cloth is the same as the one in Gatsby’s pinched and perfected appearance.
The focus of this paper rests on the body as a burden, carried into the grave, and before that, adorned. Its construction in storytelling is as elusive as it is illuminating, with much to reveal but often escaping unquestioned due to the mass availability of its forms that dribble into unwritten life, making its criticism a blind spot. To look at it conclusively, in terms of its manifestations in class requires a conscious unravelling, and unpicking of seams, which is what the paper aims to achieve.
In ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, Kate’s attire is an assault by her husband. Ill fitted stitches, holes, fabric, cut, and colour, are an ocean that the body is repeatedly dunked into, coming out baptised in identities that find themselves as genders, classes, rebellions, and fundamentally anywhere that the body carries itself.
The current purpose, however, remains to focus on the body’s adornment in literature, and the purely situational context that it unfolds, creating nakedness for the critic. The owner of the body is conscious of her second skin, but not always left to choose, thus divulging a great mass of knowledge about its bearer’s many forms. The pull of the apparel and its force in storytelling, the ball and chain quality of the albatross as it hangs on the body, is the subject that creates questions of further research.
The Scarred Body of the Text: Storytelling and Experiment in Bhanu Kapil’s Work
Texas State University, USA
The body; Literature; Experimentation; Bhanu Kapil; Storytelling
Bhanu Kapil’s work is known to focus on one important question: “What is the body of the text?” She considers this question from the initial steps of her writing to her published artifact. For her, the drafting process is a performance that shapes the content and form of storytelling. An obvious example is Schizophrene (2011), a book whose draft was sealed in a Ziploc bag and thrown outdoors in the Colorado winter. The text, full of gaps created by the erased parts of the “winterized” manuscript, gave birth to a new kind of body for the published fiction. The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (2001) is another example of Kapil’s interest in genre binding texts that represent bodies in unusual ways. Kapil records her travels to India, England, and the US, as well as Indian women’s transcribed words on the themes of “suffering,” “dismemberment,” “death,” and motherhood (9). In Incubation: A Space for Monsters (2006), Kapil focuses on the experience of a British girl of Indian descent in the US, along a poetic theory of cyborgs and monsters. Here too, the shape of the text itself—its multiple frames and its physical disjunctions and associations—resembles the hybrid bodies it calls attention to. Humanimal: A Project for Future Children (2009) chronicles the story of Amala and Kamala who were found living with wolves in 1921. Scarring is a theme that punctuates the text, as Kapil compiles a portrait of memory and violence during “civilizing” endeavors. In light of these experiments with form and content surrounding the body and storytelling, my paper will ponder the following questions: What kinds of storytelling originate from experimentation with the bodily realm? How does the form of these stories illuminate the portrayal of today’s bodies?
The Body as a Learning Tool: Consent, and Sensitive Examinations Performed by Medical Students
Phillipa J. Malpas
The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
medical students, patients, sensitive examinations, consent, male and female genitalia.
At New Zealand’s two schools of medicine (the universities of Auckland and Otago), the undergraduate medical programmes work within an apprenticeship model whereby medical students are immersed within the clinical environment early in their training. Alongside learning the theoretical and scientific bases of medicine, students are supervised in their interactions with patients, observing and performing procedures and interventions under supervision.
It is a requirement of both ethics and law that patients give their informed consent for the involvement of medical students, and indeed other allied health professional trainees, in the patient’s medical treatment and care. A student may speak to a patient about their involvement in the patient’s medical treatment and care and ask for their consent. Conversely, consent for a student to observe or perform a procedure may be gained by a senior colleague. However, there is national and international evidence that some medical students perform sensitive examinations (female and male rectum and genitalia, and female pelvis and breast) on conscious and anaesthetised patients without their knowledge or consent.
In this session I will briefly examine the arguments for insisting on informed patient consent, and those arguments that claim patients give their tacit consent by virtue of simply being in a medical setting.
Some of the questions to consider include: Are the sensitive parts of our bodies relevantly different to other parts when it comes to consent? What impact does one’s sex and/or gender have in relation to consent?
thank you, next [‘video’]: Navigating Porn Consumption in Intimate Relationships
Intimacy Coach, Canada
pornography, media literacy, porn literacy, ethical porn, feminist porn, bodies in porn, sexual education, North America, biased research, sexual communication
Porn is everywhere, but since it is a general sexual taboo in North America, we don’t talk about it in the same way we do with other forms of media. With the media being filled with imagery that portrays a regimented script of gender and sexual interactions, how do we educate people to understand their own sexuality and pleasure if they do not have the knowledge to search and access ethically produced pornography? As much as mainstream culture is loath to admit it, porn is media that requires literacy. In this session, Alisha Fisher will address her Master’s research in reclaiming sexual agency through ethically produced porn in a feminist framework, and reveal examples of how scientific research can be easily skewed to support various ideologies. Alisha will also cover how to access ethical porn, speak about the impact that our cultural silence has on sexual exploration, consent, kink, sexuality, and gender, and how open communication can improve our sexual wellbeing.
Bodies Under Water: Interspecies Communication and Ethical Living-Together in Jean Painlevé’s Cinematic Storytelling
John Hopkins University, USA
Film, Jean Painlevé, ethics, nonhuman bodies, water, communication, sound
This paper draws on the work of the French filmmaker Jean Painlevé to reveal the human body in its closeness to nonhuman (animal) bodies and articulate an ethico‐political orientation that recognizes the agentic assemblages of media, human and nonhuman animals in an animated world. It puts forward the thesis that Painlevé both acknowledges a body’s creativity and vulnerability and highlights the role of imagination in scientific work and worldbuilding efforts. More specifically, the paper treats Painlevé’s films of underwater animals – directed under the motto “science is fiction” – as a cinematic storytelling about human and nonhuman bodies and their mutual entanglement. Taking up the fluid character of water, the films portray the boundary between human and nonhuman life as fleeting, link human self‐perception to the perception of animals and establish a kind of interspecies (nonlinguistic) communication based on shared affection. Moreover, they can be seen as transporting philosophical ideas by cinematic means. To bring out these aspects, the paper brings Painlevé’s storytelling in conversation with political philosophy of affect, body and entanglement – particularly Latour’s, Massumi’s and Deleuze & Guattari’s – as well as earth science literature and neurobiological studies. It also investigates Painlevé’s cinematic techniques as such, especially the film’s soundtracks. Eventually, the paper hopes to contribute to three wider debates. First, it reveals the value of interdisciplinary thinking, allowing for a productive interaction of film, natural science research and political and cultural theory. Second, it helps in reconceptualizing communication as an affective, embodied and interspecies phenomenon and in rethinking the relationship between perception, knowledge (production) and storytelling. Third, it recovers Painlevé’s films for present cultural, ethical and political concerns, assuming that by rendering the accustomed spectacular and the unthinkable familiar, they link aesthetics to politics and ethics, create a renewed belief in the world, and offer resources for modes of responsible and sustainable living‐together.
Performing the Body/Myself On Screen – Daniel Monks’ Marrow (2015) and Pulse (2017)
Curtin University, Australia
Screenwriting, memory narratives, auto/biography, adaptation
Film is an act of memory object making and memory transmission. The memory film consciously draws on autobiographical experiences real and imagined and through the act of re-telling and reconstruction enacts a process “self-becoming” (Carter, 2009) on screen.
Performing memories is a way of working through and re-constructing the self. Films that draw on autobiographical experiences (accessible memories) are a way of working through, and constructing narratives of the self.
How can memory work be applied to the writing and filmmaking process? Can memory work with its focus on personal and embodied experience lead us to a more truthful account of our individual histories and ourselves as social beings?
In addressing these questions I draw on recent scientific and sociological studies into autobiographical experiences (accessible memories) are a way of working through, and constructing narratives of the self.
How can memory work be applied to the writing and filmmaking process? Can memory work with its focus on personal and embodied experience lead us to a more truthful account of our individual histories and ourselves as social beings?
In addressing these questions I draw on recent scientific and sociological studies into autobiographical memory in my examination of the screenwriting and film performance work of Australian performer and writer Daniel Monks. Monks film works, Marrow (2015) and Pulse (2017) are adapted and developed from his personal memories and experiences. Identifying as disabled and queer Monks’ work straggles the fact-fiction divide enabling the social and personal to dynamically interact producing drama narratives where the body is the primary site for telling and sharing with an audience his need to be seen. Monks ‘others’ himself as he reconstructs and works through traumatic experiences using autobiographical material to embody his identity forming “goals of self – me” (Conway, 2001) on the screen.
Both Marrow and Pulse demonstrate the workings of embodied memories on screen and how the process of film writing and making can be both interpretive and transformative acts.
My presentation will include excerpts from the original scripts, produced films and interviews with Monks on his writing and development processes. My study of how Monks uses and refigures his body within a cinematic landscape aims to promote discussion on how individual memories function as dynamic and interconnected sources for the screenwriter/filmmaker, performer and their audiences.
The Adolescent Body in Quality Television Crime Dramas: Strong Female Characters and the Fetishism of Violence Against Young Women
SUNY Empire State College, USA
crime, murder, rape, TV, Violence Against Women, “The Fall” “Top of the Lake”
Television has served as a reflection of larger cultural attitudes since it was first created in the 1940s. From the earliest days of television’s history, adolescent women have been represented in various roles that were sexist and often demeaning. At the same time, some recent television crime dramas are also progressive in the sense that they have a female lead character, which is often the inspector or lead detective in the series. Despite these positive developments in the gender of the lead character, there are other disturbing trends, including the facts that the victim in these “quality dramas” is almost always a younger woman and that often the murder is shown in gruesome detail. In shows that are now on Netflix and Amazon, such as The Fall (BBC2, 2013 ) or The Bridge (2013–2014), the violence against a young female, who is usually murdered, often by a serial killer, makes up the central storyline. As Tina Weber has noted, this is part of a trend that began in the turn of the 21st century, when TV shows like “CSI” or “Six Feet Under,” began to show clearly visible dead bodies as the visual focus and more increasingly, as the central focus of the plot itself (Weber, 2011). In her view, these are especially problematic, in that they highlight the aesthetic pleasure of seeing female adolescent dead bodies as part of the storyline.
The use of lethal violence against young women’s bodies as a plot device, or of glamorizing fetishistic and sexually predatory behavior—sometimes referred to as “crime porn” (Mackichan 2014)—has unfortunately become more common because it can offer viewers a shocking storyline that makes for heightened dramatic tension. It also normalizes being entertained by brutal depictions of women being hurt and humiliated. Whereas younger women were once “only” murdered, many of the female characters on these shows are first subjected to being mutilated or turned into objects, much like how some pornography has traditionally portrayed women.
In this paper I will explore the rise of these kinds of images of adolescent female bodies on prestige “quality” television dramas in the “golden age” of television, specifically focusing in on British, American and Scandinavian prestige crime dramas, which have been criticized by writers such as Lucinda Coxon (of “The Danish Girl,”) for their “voyeuristic” thrills and casual misogyny in their portrayal of young female murder victims. I will contrast these programs with alternative visions offered by female directors such as Jane Campion, in her crime drama “Top of the Lake,” as well as Coxon’s “The Danish Girl.” I will conclude by discussing how the portrayal of adolescent women in demeaning and humiliating ways on television, or as Helen Mirren has noted, “Our TV screens are full of the bodies of dead young women,” does not occur in a vacuum.
Adolescent Bodies in Young Adult Poetry: Cognitive Dissonance and Conscious Episodic Memory
State University of New York, USA
Jacqueline Woodson’s 2014 memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, was lauded by organizations representing the best in children’s and adolescent publishing. Woodson’s memoir received the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, A Newbery Honor Award, The Coretta Scott King Award, and The NAACP Image Award among other recognitions. The Horn Book’s review stated this is “a memoir-in-verse so immediate that readers will feel they are experiencing the author’s childhood right along with her…The poetry here sings: specific, lyrical, full of imagery. An extraordinary- indeed brilliant-portrait of a writer as a young girl.” Seemingly true to conscience episodic memory in as much as the poetic memoir allows, questions of cognitive dissonance arise regarding Woodson’s memoir. As a successful middle-aged writer living with her two children and physician wife in an affluent region of Brooklyn, New York, is it fair for current adolescents to read Woodson’s, as well as other poetic representations of the adolescent body, as true representations of a lived adolescent experience? Maria Nikolajeva’s current research on literacy cognitivism sees “the so-called childhood memories recalled by authors as complete confabulations” (91). If Nikolajeva is correct, then who does have the authority to create stories embodying the adolescent experience?
Poet Nikki Grimes is a generation older than Woodson and has been equally lauded for her fiction and poetry written for and about minority youth. In her 2017 collection of poetry One Last Word: Wisdom of the Harlem Renaissance, Grimes using the poetry form, the Golden Shovel, to take short poems from the Harlem Renaissance and creates new poems using lines from the original. Grimes is neither co-opting the voices of the original poets, nor is she portraying a universality of her mid-twentieth century adolescent experience. Even so, there are times when she adopts personal and temporal deixis that portray a universal message to remembered adolescent experiences. Three theoretical lenses will be used to explore Introducing adolescent readers to cognitive literacy criticism with the intent to provide opportunities for them to appreciate poetry and poetic memoirs about adolescence while at the same time pushing back against universal messages that may bely the adolescent reader’s deictic positioning.
Narrating the Monstrous Body: Monstrous Femininity and Subversive Storytelling in Elif Shafak’s The Gaze (2006)
University of Surrey, United Kingdom
Storytelling, Monstrosity, Femininity, Elif Shafak, The Gaze, Helene Cixous, Medusa, Margrit Shildrick
This paper explores how the narrative of the monstrous feminine body in Elif Shafak’s The Gaze (2006) contributes to the reconceptualisation of storytelling as a method of resistance to patriarchal power structures. Margrit Shildrick’s theory of monstrosity in Embodying the Monster (2002) and Helene Cixous’s ‘The Laugh of Medusa’ (1976) inform my discussion of how women and monsters are defined as ‘other’ to the normative male form by patriarchal power dynamics. This paper explores how monstrous femininity transgresses the boundaries of mainstream narrative discourse by constructing (un)familiarity with the reader transforming and constituting hegemonic boundaries and therefore resisting categorisation within the position of the ‘other’. This paper argues that Shafak deliberately invites her readers to confront the monster in her novel and acknowledge how femininity is monstrous in its ‘failure to approximate corporeal norms’. The monstrous feminine body is represented as a threat to the patriarchal narrative discourse with both her voice and silence. By drawing on how Medusa is not ‘deadly’ but ‘laughing’, this paper focuses on how the hybrid human in The Gaze challenges binary structures, demonstrating how it destabilises and reverses the gaze by existing as a disruptive object and by inhabiting an actively gazing subject position.
Performance: MY EYES ADORE YOU: You Are Beautiful To Me
Sunita S. Mukhi
DeviDiva Productions, Philippines
MY EYES ADORE YOU:
You Are Beautiful To Me
There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in
I invite you to confess the one aspect of your physical appearance that you most revile, and together let’s transform that into a thing of beauty.
Interactive Installation 1: (In)visiable Women: Making More Visible the Woman in the Body through Audio-stories
**this session requires interested participants to sign up for specified time slots
Frank (2010, 2012) writes that the stories we carry throughout our lives become our ‘companion stories’. Based on personal experience, and the stories others tell us, companion stories may offer us hope or console us during times of uncertainty: especially when we feel our bodies are under threat.
In the UK, as with other Western countries, the larger pregnant body is medically constructed as ‘high-risk’. High-risk pregnancies attract increased levels of medical attention including providing women with detailed information about risk. However, it is also argued that larger women’s pregnancies’ are over medicalised leading to unnecessary medical intervention (DeJoy & Bittner, 2015). My PhD findings suggest that women experience a variety of maternal healthcare practices which inscribe meaning on the large pregnant body in terms of deviance and failure; configuring women’s expectations of their bodies during pregnancy and childbirth.
The installation engages participants with some of the key findings of the research using the medium of a four minute long immersive audio-story based on narrative interviews with six larger pregnant women in Scotland. I have selected audio-stories as a means of allowing listeners to imagine story characters and happenings unencumbered by assumptions about larger embodiment. By doing so I aim to make more visible the woman in the body (Martin, 1989; Tischner & Malson, 2008; McCullough, 2013).
The Installation has been co-designed with inTer-aCtive artist Maya Chowdhry who will also contribute to participants’ experience which also includes a post listening activity, a poster and zine distribution.
Intimate Witnesses: Writing Lives and Bodies at the Limits of Existence
Griffith University, Australia
Intimate, witnessing, dying, ageing, lives, bodies, reflection, grief
This paper has been prompted by the personal experience of one of the authors (Margaret Gibson) witnessing her mother’s decline into late old age, the onset of dementia, and the transformation of her life into a space of social confinement. Her mother’s embodiment and stage of life represents the opposite of all that is promoted in modern life as goal and ethos — stay young, look young, live long, stay healthy, and remain active. An emphasis on bodily health, and longevity has, in some ways, sequestered the reality of death from the public sphere making it an issue to be dealt with more personally and by the elderly or gravely ill. Furthermore, the gradual medicalisation of death and ageing in affluent countries and social geographies, and their management in institutions of aged care, hospitals and hospices, has created a social vacuum where people may not know how to talk about death and dying without embarrassment or awkwardness. Witnessing advanced ageing and dying as an intimate personal concern is also often hidden and deferred in many people’s lives until they reach middle age and face the care of their parent/s. In affluent geographies, care institutions and risk assessment has significantly removed witnessing the extremities of ageing and dying in public spaces as forms of mundane encounter and social educative exposure. In such life worlds, fictional and documentary film, literature, memoir and other social media are important mediums for intimate exposure to the human condition for reflection, conversation and ways of knowing. This paper will examine ageing and dying bodies in intimate representations, drawing significantly on memoir written by women about their own dying. The question of how women write their lives in the face death, bearing witness to their bodies, thoughts, and reflections will be a central focus.
Body Memoir: Remembering Familial Past with Storytelling
San Diego State University, USA
Body, memory, storytelling, Chinese diaspora, mother-daughter relationship. Memoir
Stories are told about bodies, our bodies and our loved ones. Remembered bodies, sutured bodies, bodies heavy with histories, bodies that have witnessed war. Loving bodies, erotic bodies, sensuous bodies. Scarred bodies, laboring bodies, suffering bodies that must face mortality or bodies that cope with illnesses. Maternal bodies, bodies birthed with fiction and creativity. Border bodies that refuse to settle, mobile bodies that traverse across the globe seeking a diasporic home. Bodies lost, bodies displaced, bodies that seek spiritual atonement. Wandering bodies, ghostly bodies. Bodies comfortable with their own skin. Bodies that bend with time, aging bodies, historicized bodies, ordinary bodies that have become extraordinary. Mythical bodies, becoming liquid in time and space. Bodies and memories do not exist in a vacuum but are inter-relational, emotional, ideological, political, ontological, historicized and aesthetic markers. In this presentation, I will tell an excerpt of my memoir, Gingko Memory: A Chinese Diaporic Woman’s Memoir, tracing my memories and storytelling of my mother and my relationship with her as her daughter. My mother was a born a war child. My mother lived through the Vietnam War, traversing on boat, from Vietnam to Indonesia to Canada, as a postcolonial diasporic Chinese woman, a mother with four daughters and a husband, a divorcee, a remarried woman, a widow, but most importantly she is a fashion designer, an artist, a singer, a dancer, a chef, a watercolor painter, a Chinese calligrapher, a guitar player, a gardener, a swimmer, a storyteller, a creator, an inspiration. In this multi-media, multi-genre, creative performative piece, I will combine my own paintings, poetry with storytelling, in order to narrate my life story as well as my mother’s. Painting tales onto skin, inscribing songs onto flesh, this presentation will explore the beauty of a woman’s life, an ordinary woman living in extraordinary times.
The Body as Pure Character: Materializing Identity to Convey Purpose
Texas State University, USA
This paper analyzes the utility and relationship that bodies have on characters’ psychological identities and the effects these have on the story in Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). This is done in part by tracking the physical transformations and their psychological effect on Sophie, Howl, the Witch of the Waste, and Howl’s castle. An analysis of these transformations a long side an exploration of Miyazaki’s use of animation as a medium help to reveal how the castle is established as a character that derives its identity from the collective of its inhabitants. The castle then helps point the focus of criticism away from family makeup and towards war. Monster theory illuminates the cultural implications of Howl’s monstrous physicality. This reveals a subversive antiwar sentiment that establishes war and those that perpetuate it as the existential threat facing society. These elements amalgamate to advocate for both a nontraditional family and the communal aspects of the traditional family model, focusing its criticism on war’s destructiveness, not the destabilization of the nuclear family.
Ailments, Angst, and Ageing in Kingsley Amis’ Ending Up
Zeynep Z. Atayurt-Fenge
Ankara University, Turkey
old age, embodied experience, illness, Kingsley Amis, Ending Up, Merleau-Ponty, de Beauvoir, body/mind duality, isolation, loneliness, nothingness
As the inevitable final phase of a long life and a significant aspect of the human condition, old age has inspired many and varied responses in literature. Obviously, how this final stage of life is represented contains many implications which facilitate an exploration of old age in different parameters such as physical, social, cultural, psychological, and/or economic. However, despite its varied articulations, old age is a unique experience that has driven many authors to offer a highly personalised and subjective view of this complex phase of life. Published in 1974, Kingsley Amis’ Ending Up is a novel which portrays old age through the individual experiences of five ageing characters living together in an old, isolated cottage. Amis’ multifaceted take on the notion of ageing makes the text suitable for an analysis of the way the body, and in particular the ageing body, is depicted in the literary imagination as a complex narrative. Thus, Amis’ Ending Up foregrounds the experience of old age not only from a physical perspective but from a phenomenological point of view, in that Amis constructs old age as an embodied experience, encompassing a certain structure of awareness that gears the materiality of the ageing body into discursive proximity with the way it is lived and perceived. Drawing on the theoretical works on embodiment and ageing offered by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Simone de Beauvoir respectively, this paper aims to examine the ways in which the depiction of ageing in Amis’ Ending Up conveys an embodied experience that displays the tension caused by the failure to achieve a sense of wholeness in a social environment which is unable to address the discordant communication between body and mind whereby the mind is portrayed as being in conflict with the deteriorating physical condition.
Sharing Selves: How Intimacy Moves Selves From “I” to “Us” to “We”
Karen V. Fernandez
University of Auckland, New Zealand
Although the extended self (Belk 1988) refers to the possessions, places, and people one is most emotionally attached to, prior empirical work on the extended self has been cross-sectional and has focused mostly on individually owned possessions. Thus, this work has not yet explained the processes by which two separate individuals (“I and you”) become so close that they become one (“we”) (i.e. a shared self with perceived commonalities). We will demonstrate that sharing (Belk 2010), the non-reciprocal, pro-social distribution of resources given without expectation of reciprocity is a key aspect of these processes (Karanika and Hogg 2016).
To shed light on the processes of becoming “we”, our paper draws on longitudinal studies of South Asian (x Sri Lankan and 4 Indian) families as they adapt to changing family configurations (e.g. newly-weds becoming a couple, aging in-laws moving in). Belk (2010) conceptualised sharing in (an inclusive act where sharee becomes part of the sharer’s extended self) as separate from sharing out (dividing or giving something between/to a relative stranger). We contribute by uncovering the processes by which intimacy transforms sharing out into sharing in, creating love and shared self in the process. As families share tangible and intangible resources, they bond, creating and expressing a collective family self. Sharing in appears to be more about mediating internal identity tensions whereas sharing out is a more external and outward projections of family identity. We show that intimacy is both a precursor and an outcome in the processes by which “I and you” become “we”.
Breaking the Social Pressure of Infinite Maternal Love
University of Warsaw (Poland) / University of Hradec Králové (Czechia)
maternal love, adoption, Roma, pure relationship, life writing, Czech literature
In postmodern times the building and maintaining of familial relationships is less and less based on kinship of blood and heritage, but increasingly on fine intimacy as depicted as a pure relationship. However, can one refer the notion of pure relationship to a relationship with one’s child? Maternal love in particular is burdened with strong cultural references, which create a sort of archetypal mother. It has been considerably imprinted in western consciousness since the beginning of modernity. Until feminism showed that notions of maternal instinct and infinite maternal love are partly products of cultural discourse. What about cases of maternal love by choice? Is it easier or more difficult to cope in these cases with the injunctive cultural norms of infinite love? What about situations when an adoption project ends up as a fiasco, strictly speaking when building a strong relationship with a child completely fails? In such cases an indispensable question occurs, what is the reason? Nature or nurture? I would like to base my contemplations upon the issues mentioned above by analysing the autobiographical novel A Year of the Rooster (2008) by Czech writer Tereza Boučková. Furthermore I would like to focus on the public debate, which was sparked by the book. The author describes the very last years of bringing up her two adopted Roma sons. Boučková decided on adoption after she had been told she would never be able to have children of her own. Afterwards, surprisingly she gave birth to a son. Since puberty her adopted sons started to live in contradiction to mainstream society (drugs, legal problems, prostitution), whereas her biological son didn’t cause her any trouble. Boučková’s novel became the book of the year 2008 in the Czech Republic. Describing her own trauma the author had to face the social pressure of infinite maternal love and the delicate problem of racism.
Telling the Story of the Theatre of our Bodies
Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
Professor Anna Furse, interdisciplinary theatre director and writer, and co-Director of The Centre of the Body at Goldsmiths, University of London, has conducted practice research for some years that imbricates and is informed by medical matters. Anna Furse Performs An Anatomy Act, a show and tell was devised on a 4 year Residency Commission with the Create CAPP EU project and Live Collision Festival, Dublin in 2016, and has been performed in Ireland and the UK. This eccentric performance lecture continues her exploration of the body spectacular in the medical/cultural nexus to demonstrate their enduring braiding, interwoven with autobiographical allusion to produce a unique event of knowledge. Exploring the body as text and the morbid and moral history of Western Medicine, Furse, in the persona of a Renaissance anatomist, entangles two remote disciplines: anatomy (dissection lab and body donor scheme) and theatre (text, film and live musical saw playing). The performance challenges both the information-transmission modus of scholarly lecture and the aesthetics of neo-Brechtian lehrstücke didactic theatre on the other, urging spectators, through vividly illustrated and interactive storytelling, to confront the abject in death – the status of the cadaver, dismemberment and visceral fact – deliberately creating, and then subverting, anxiety provoked.
The project and all aspects of its research dimensions are curated in her subsequent digital artwork production I Am Not a Piece of Meat
“I am awe-struck by this epic – the erudition, research, arcane bits […] The digital design is amazing, brilliant”
Yvonne Rainer (Filmmaker and Choreographer)
“fascinating, and beautifully realised.”
Talia Rogers (Publishing Director, Digital Theatre)
Jerome Burne (Journalist, Blog: HealthInsightUK.org)
I Am Not a Piece of Meat operates as an interactive site, a research tool, and an artwork all in one. The visitor is invited to enter the screen to anatomise its contents, roam, parse, graze or go deeper into its corpus. the work expands on eclectic research undertaken in anatomy lab, library and studio that informed the work, spiralling this outwards into a layered visual/aural/textual site of information about the anatomical gaze from the Renaissance to today.
Figure Study in Light by Paul Holmes
Edinburgh Napier University, United Kingdom
Body, Masculinity, Tailoring, Light, Art, Figure
To make this artwork, the artist was measured by a tailor as if for a suit of clothes. These dimensions were translated into an installation of LED tubes suspended in a darkened room, forming the same shape in light that the tailor’s measuring tape made around the artist’s body.
The half-suggestion of a human in these light forms recalls the stick and circle figures of a child’s sketch, or cultural icons the Michelin Man and the Saint – forms that conflict with the musculature of the “hegemonic male ideal” (Adams, Turner and Bucks, 2005) that shapes many men’s body anxieties.
Tailored clothes flatter by hiding the realities of the figure to make the body fit contemporary notions of male identity, shape and proportion, and, historically, the lounge suit became fashionable by association with the masculine pursuit of sports (Anderson, 2000). The measuring process clients go through, is, by contrast, unflattering: Reducing them to cold and unforgiving geometric data – mathematical vital statistics that cannot be disguised.
Echoing this, the light elements in the work are exploded like a scientific diagram: strewn around the space, rather than being arranged to form a human shape; the figure cannot be recognized as whole from any single perspective. Heinrich (2012) writes that body art works are only fully realized when the spectator brings their own theoretical and emotional perspectives to it. Here, the viewer must move around the work and rely on memory to assemble a full picture of this symbolic outline body. The image we have of it, like that we have of our own bodies, is an illusion that bears only a subjective and superficial relationship to reality.
The Celebrity Body as Site for Empowered Consumerism: A Textual Analysis of Kylie Cosmetics
The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA
celebrity, cosmetics, social media, postfeminism, commodity feminism, promotion, pop culture
While there are no shortages of reality show celebrities, the Kardashian/Jenner clan has redefined the genre. According to an August 2018 issue of Forbes magazine, 21-year Kylie Jenner, the baby of the family, is on track to become the youngest self-made billionaire in history due to the staggering success of the eponymous named company Kylie Cosmetics. Featuring lip kits, eye palettes and bronzers, the products were only available via her company website and seasonal pop-up shops. (A recent partnership with beauty chain store Ulta has now made the products available for purchase at bricks and mortar stores too.) My presentation, using the research methodology of textual analysis, will specifically deconstruct Jenner’s social media presence in relation to the promotion of Kylie Cosmetics. In less than three years, using the social media platforms of Instragram and YouTube, Jenner has successfully harnessed the power and influence of her celebrity status. Moreover, she frequently uses her body as a site for performative expression while “striping” the color swatches on her arms or hands. Whereas prestige cosmetic brands have historically paid millions of dollars to models and actresses to be the “face” of their brand, Kylie is the postmodern pastiche equivalent of model/actress/entrepreneur/influencer/performance artist. Using the theoretical framework of commodity feminism as advanced by Goldman, Heath and Smith (1991) and postfeminism as advanced by McRobbie (2000, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009), Douglas (2000, 2010), and Taker and Negra (2005, 2007), I argue that Jenner attempts to frame her body as the site of “empowered consumerism.” Furthermore, I contend her position as a known celebrity, in conjunction will an on-going social media presence, has further strengthened the bond with an ever-growing number of followers.
Tango Stories: Narrating Body Pre-Industrial to Post-Internet
University of South Florida, USA
Tango, Narrative, Story, Body, Post-colonial, Gender, Post-Internet, Dance, Art, Intervention.
I don’t like the story Eddie tells when he dances. – A tanguera explaining why she doesn’t dance with Eddie.
Tango is about shaping painful stories into embodied beauty. –A tanguero explaining why he dances.
You can get the whole story online. –The end of a conversation about an upcoming tango festival.
Argentine Tango was born over a century ago in a specific geographical, social, economic, and stringently gendered context. With its golden age in the 40’s, tango practically disappeared by the 70’s. Currently there are more tango dancers than ever before. In every major city worldwide every step every couple dances draws from a century of stories, a cast of characters, a set of myths. These myths have complex codes about how gendered bodies behave based on a 19th century dance culture that was, ironically, born as a social transgression and evolved through a series of transgressions. Tango is bodies narrating stories, according to rules and against rules. While it is possible to find strictly traditional Argentine milongas (tango dance parties) that exactingly enforce the originating macho cisgender narratives of Argentine Tango, internationally tango has also been at the forefront of evolving gender fluidity. In many cities which first had innovative “queer milongas” these alternative milongas no longer exist because queer culture has generally been included in contemporary tango culture. The explosion and transformation of tango in the last two decades is a complex story, but a significant and facilitating factor is the concurrent rise of Internet and social media. In this paper, drawing on my research on selfies and other modes of body narratives online, I will look at how the traditional somatic stories of Argentine Tango have been preserved and transformed through platforms of social media, and how the changing and enduring stories of tango mirror and counter changes in broader cultural, and personal, body narratives post-Internet.
Protest Imitating Art: The Handmaid’s Tale
Lisa L. Ortiz
Metropolitan State University of Denver, USA
Handmaid’s Tale, Storytelling, Body, Human Body, Body Autonomy, Body Abuse, Political Protest, Slavery, Rape, Christian Fundamentalism
Political issues surrounding the domination of women’s bodies have exploded in the United States. There are renewed religious battles over legal abortion and access to birth control. American women demand body autonomy and reproductive rights, while the ultra-conservative, male-dominated government and healthcare industry seeks to diminish those rights. The female outcry against discrimination, sexual harassment, and assault have resulted in national Women’s Marches and the #metoo and #timesup movements.
Simultaneously, a decades-old story re-emerges. This story is one of power and the subjugation required to seize and maintain that power. A puritanical patriarchy, driven by Christian fundamentalism and reproductive survival, has seized political power in a dystopian U.S. They have enslaved women for either gestational servitude or toxic waste clean-up. The story of course, is The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Canadian author Margaret Atwood in 1985. The literary success of the novel prompted the production a full-length film in 1990. This analysis examines the third interpretation of Atwood’s story – the 2017 web-televised series.
The story imparts a brutal correlation between totalitarian law infractions and graphic physical abuse of the human body. For example, anyone discovered to be LBGTQ is automatically found guilty of “gender treachery” and is subjected to death by hanging and public display. However, if a fertile female is found guilty of “gender treachery,” she is subjected to female genital mutilation, returned to sexual slavery, expected to conceive, deliver, and give up the baby born from her ongoing rape.
The conference presentation will consist of a short video excerpting the stunning visual examples of normalized misogyny, reproductive slavery, and the relentless physical torture used to control the female population of fictitious Gilead. The presentation will conclude by showing American women protesting the current political administration wearing The Handmaid’s Tale infamous costume.
The Body as a Project and Storyteller of the Embodied Self
University of Western Australia, Australia
Embodiment, neoliberalism, body-mind-dualism, body management, appearance, health, norms, ideals
Amid the rise of neoliberalism to the leading economic policy model in Western societies in the 1980s, people have started to internalise a neoliberal way of thinking, whereby the human body has become an entity that can and needs to be precisely managed through free yet rational decision-making processes. The neoliberal citizen has consequently become an entrepreneur of the self who is free, independent, rational, productive and responsible for themselves, their health and wellbeing as well as their appearance. The body in this process has turned into a bearer or storyteller of the self, whereby the fit, thin body is perceived as moral, healthy and sexy while the overweight body is seen as lazy, unhealthy and unattractive. The focus on individuals as entrepreneurs who manage their bodies through the rationally thinking mind has, however, become increasingly criticised for viewing the social actor as ‘disembodied’ or detached with a powerful mind that governs over the passive body. On the other hand, the discourse around embodiment suggests that individuals have internalised the concept of the rationally operating mind that needs or should manage the body in terms of health but also appearance norms and ideals and is thus connecting rational decision-making processes with the embodied understanding of the self. By researching the body and its social environment, it can be argued that these connections reach beyond the debates around mind-body binary thinking whereby the body should not be thought of as either solely guided by embodied discourses nor as merely falling into a mind-body dualism, but rather, simultaneously and inseparably as both at once. The story that the appearance of the body tells can hence be discussed based on the concepts of embodiment and the mind-body dualism as two connected, rather than two separate or opposing concepts.
Storytelling, the Body Female and the Body Politic: Cultural Property and National Identity
Keren Lloyd Bright
The Open University Law School, United Kingdom
Storytelling, cultural property, body female, body politic, Germania, Britannia, Hispania, nationhood
This is a proposal for an interactive presentation. The presentation will be supported by a series of images using PowerPoint facilities (there will be no reading from PowerPoint slides!). The presentation will tell a story about history, cultural property, bodies and borders: the interplay between stories, the human body and the body politic. If you think this would be better placed as part of a panel or round table, I would be entirely agreeable.
The Romans as they expanded their empire across much of Europe named territories which they perceived to be distinct entities, by using the borders of the physical landscape – rivers, coasts, hills and mountains – and the tribes that peopled these lands. This was name calling on a grand scale. Names that we are familiar with today: Germania, Britannia, Hispania and many others. These names created a sense of bounded physical space beyond the tribal, which was a precursor to nationhood in European countries many centuries hence.
Much later on the path to the creation of nationhood and the demarcation of national borders, the names of Germania, Britannia and Hispania (amongst others) were made tangible by the storytellers. They gave them physical form in the shape of the female body. These female figures, Germania for example, were created to represent the nation. Nationhood was conjured and embedded in the minds of listeners and observers through the medium of storytelling using the female body as a vehicle. The body female helped to embody and succour the body politic. In European political thought the body politic is a centuries old metaphor by which a nation (or other organisation or institution) is imagined as a human body.
This story was made visual in cultural property such as paintings, sculptures and monuments. Statuary of Germania and Britannia and other Roman territorial labels appeared in public spaces and sculptural reliefs of them adorned public buildings – the Walhalla Monument in Bavaria, for instance. These embodiments were also used as a symbol on coinage and later on postage stamps. The female body was used in storytelling to provide legitimacy which underpinned both legal jurisdiction and legal tender in a national context.
Too Too Solid Flesh: Queerly embodied reflections on Early Modern and contemporary corporeality and self-fashioning
University of Brighton, United Kingdom
Early Modern / Embodiment / Self-fashioning / Corporeality / Materiality / Queer Studies / Trans* Studies / Humoral Theory / Costume / Gender
In Renaissance Europe, the Early Modern subject’s experience of gender construction, corporeality, and interiority was informed by the regulatory discourses of humoral theory, which emphasised the body’s unruly porousness and susceptibility to material influences. Meanwhile the emergent science and public theatre of anatomical dissection, alongside the era’s deployment of mutilation and dismemberment as a publicly presented feature of capital punishment, contributed to a culture in which the external and the internal were radically interchangeable, specular and spectacular. In this context, Early Modern clothing, with its detachable, interchangeable parts, its fluid construct – and deconstruct – ability, and its often over-determined signifiers of gender, class and status, occupied a powerful, and powerfully contested place in the cultural imagination and experience of identity, offering opportunities for self-fashioning which both speak to and challenge contemporary identity politics. I use this constellation of practices and ideologies to explore a performative, prosthetic approach to gendered embodiment which engages a ludic dialogue between now, then, and yet-to-be.
Blurring lecture and performance, this 20 minute piece will be a continuation of a series of works previously presented at platforms including Work Processing (TECHNE student organised work-sharing event, London 2017) and Atmospheres (Practice Research Symposium, University of Guildford, 2018). My PhD project, working title Trans*historical Trans*formations, centres on the queer, trans*, performing body as a tool and method for historical enquiry, staging a conversation between queer pasts, presents and futures, with a focus on the Early Modern period. My current research focus attempts a reading of queer and trans* embodiments, through humoral theory and notions of self-fashioning via the prosthetic nature of Renaissance clothing. Inspired and informed by artists and academics including Renate Lorenz and Tami Spry, in Too Too Solid Flesh, I braid theory and practice via performative autoethnography. I draw on my work as a theatre designer, with particular reference to my recent work on Hamlet at Shakespeare’s Globe, my personal experience of trans* embodiment, medical intervention and gender transition, imbricated with my ongoing research into Early Modern corporeality, materiality and gender performance.
The Geographies of Heteronormativity: The Source of Symbolic Homophobic Violence at a South African University
University of Johannesburg, South Africa
geographies, institutionalised heteronormativity, symbolic homophobic violence, same-sex sexualities
This article examines how symbolic homophobic violence is produced from hegemonic and heteronormative institutional geographies. This study forms part of a larger project with Life Orientation student-teachers that investigated the strengthening of HIV and AIDS integration in the curriculum. Five student teachers from the class cohort used photovoice to illustrate how students with same-sex sexual identities were subjected to othering, discrimination, bigotry and overt forms of violent aggression emanating from their non-conforming gender expressions. Through photovoice-narrative interviews, I found that their transgression in spatial heterosexual norms resulted in intimidation, vilification and, in extreme cases, overt forms of violence by peers. This article focused on two themes, namely the physical geographies of symbolic homophobic violence and punishment, and discipline of geographies of the non-normative gendered body. Although symbolically homophobic violence can be linked to individual resistance to same-sex sexuality, this article shows that symbolic violence is largely reproduced by the contours of heteronormativity maintained by institutional geographies. If universities are committed to inclusive and safe learning spaces for diverse identities then they will have to interrogate how hegemonic cultures mobilise discourses that enforce systemic oppression.