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Embodiment and
Exploring Creatural Existence

Marjorie O'Loughlin


Philosophy and Education

Series Editors:
Robert E. Floden, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, U.S.A.
Kenneth R. Howe, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, U.S.A.
Editorial Board:
David Bridges, Centre for Applied Research in Education, University of East Anglia,
Norwich, U.K.
Jim Garrison, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, U.S.A.
Nel Noddings, Stanford University, CA, U.S.A.
Shirley A. Pendlebury, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Denis C. Phillips, Stanford University, CA, U.S.A.
Kenneth A. Strike, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, U.S.A.


There are many issues in education that are highly philosophical in character. Among these
issues are the nature of human cognition; the types of warrant for human beliefs; the moral
and epistemological foundations of educational research; the role of education in
developing effective citizens; and the nature of a just society in relation to the educational
practices and policies required to foster it. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine any issue in
education that lacks a philosophical dimension.
The sine qua non of the volumes in the series is the identification of the expressly
philosophical dimensions of problems in education coupled with an expressly
philosophical approach to them. Within this boundary, the topicsas well as the audiences
for which they are intendedvary over a broad range, from volumes of primary interest
to philosophers to others of interest to a more general audience of scholars and students of

The titles published in this series are listed at the end of this volume.

Embodiment and Education

Exploring Creatural Existence


University of Sydney, Australia
University of Colorado,
Boulder, CO, U.S.A.

A C.I.P. Catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.


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978-1-4020-4587-5 (HB)
1-4020-4588-3 (e-book)
978-1-4020-4588-2 (e-book)

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Chapter 1

The Scopic Regime and the Ordering of the



Chapter 2

Creatural Embodiment


Chapter 3

Working Bodies


Chapter 4

Emotion, Sociality and Embodiment


Chapter 5

Embodied Citizenship









Several people helped me to complete this book by providing me with critical

support. I take this opportunity to thank them:
Luciana ODwyer who introduced me to Merleau-Pontys work many years ago
and who despite her allegiances to Husserl, nonetheless encouraged my exploration
of the great philosopher of the body.
The late John Murphy whose philosophical conversation and commentary helped
clarify my thought at a time when this project was just beginning its long gestation.
My colleague Carmel Young for her sharing of insights on our non-human
My students in the Koori Centre at the University of Sydney for their often
irreverent but always insightful discussions of embodiment.
For their outstanding technical support Julie Rosenberg, Ross Blackwood and
Cecilia Rigor-Aguilar. For their patience and kindness Tamara Welschot, Astrid
Noordermeer and Sandra Oomkes at Springer.
Finally I acknowledge the unflagging effort on the part of James Leung to
support me in completing the work. His interest in the project and assistance both
technically and intellectually is deeply appreciated. His practitioner knowledge
helped me to understand the relationship of hand and eye.
Marjorie OLoughlin,
October 2005

The body has been a focus of attention for a very long time in Western thought, both
religious and secular. But in the last decades of the twentieth century such interest
intensified and at the beginning of the new millennium it has become ubiquitous as
a theme for discussion.1 Within academic disciplines, as a topic of absorbing interest
in the broader social and cultural sphere, or as the focus of the ever-expanding fields
of health and personal development, the body continues to be argued about,
scrutinised, redefined, reconstructed and celebrated. Talk of the body crosses diverse
theoretical terrain and is the central motif in much of popular culture. Studies of
consumption in modern societies have declared the body to be the site of
intersecting fields of discourse, hence its frequent characterisation as a surface upon
which is written various cultural codes and meanings. It is identified as a symbol of
communication and, as such, can assume the status of a market phenomenon to be
exploited, for example, in selling all kinds of products, from beauty aids to
vacations. Moreover, while the basic events in the life of individuals are still
acknowledged somehow to involve the body, increasingly such events are understood to be normalised through the interventions of experts health professionals,
counsellors, fashion gurus, lifestyle experts who themselves symbolise specific
models of bodily consumption.
But contemporary views of the body, like most of their predecessors, are haunted
by a paradox. In attempting to talk about the body one is immediately faced with the
problem of the language used habitually in describing our experience of bodies. The
difficulty is revealed when as an individual human being, I simultaneously lay claim
to having a body, while also acknowledging that in some fundamental and
irrefutable sense I am a body.2 Both descriptions are apt on occasions, expressing
usually taken-for-granted attitudes about embodied human existence. At present the
idea that I have (am the owner of ) a certain kind of body seems to have assumed a
peculiar prominence in contemporary social life.3
Consumer culture presents the body as object par excellence; if images are now
the currency in which our ideas of what is appropriate to think and feel about others
and ourselves are constituted, then images of the body saturate everyday awareness.
In consumer capitalism bodily performance has assumed a central position in the
consumption and the selling of products. This performance includes the
management of others perceptions of our appearance, demeanour and general selfpresentation, our skill in selling ourselves in different ways, in most spheres of
social life from the workplace to sexuality. Yet despite the sense of excitement and
expectation which can accompany an apparently endless expansion of new meanings
assigned to bodies, there remains a sense of the body objectified, as object of the
gaze and of exchange, having an undeniably public aspect. But now it is also a selfregulated body, no longer just the externally disciplined body of earlier times. This
inscriptive body because upon it are inscribed the values, morality and law of the
society has always existed but now its owner is more deeply than ever before
implicated in the inscriptive process. It is a body which is engaged in doing but is
simultaneously that to which something is being done.4 It is a view of the body


which emphasises its status as cultural phenomenon: gendered, sexed, racialised,

and disabled bodies have revealed the operation of unequal and often oppressive
power relations in institutional and corporate life.
This approach to the study of bodies is characteristic of much recent educational
writing aimed at demonstrating the manner in which bodies are imprinted through
varieties of discourse with relations of power, often producing differing educational
outcomes. Analyses of the ways in which discourses of race, ethnicity, class and
gender are constitutive of subjectivities and the part played by schooling in this
process have revealed the political nature of the educational enterprise. Critical
accounts of the functioning of discourses about learning, knowledge, educational
performance and so on have shown how different social positionings may produce
unequal results for individuals and groups. Poststructuralist work in education,
including analysis of the curriculum, has emphasised the production of particular
kinds of subjectivities over time, through the regimes of institutional power, socially
originating practices, and other discursive configurations. Common to the work is
the understanding of the body as having an indisputably public dimension, its
various meanings being contested at different times and in different places with
often widely varying social and educational positioning of individuals.
The concept of inscriptive or discursive draws upon an understanding of the
manner in which corporeal inscription takes place through a variety of mnemotechniques (etching or branding processes) formalised as regimes of carving
meaning into or out of bodies. As such it foregrounds the microsociological level of
everyday life, demonstrating that while the regulation and governance of whole
populations had historically occurred through direct coercive means, the notion of
discipline as it is now understood involves not only overt consent on the part of the
self or subject, but also the harnessing of individuals own desires as disciplinary
operations the manipulation of activities of the organism itself. As is clear in the case
of young children, much disciplining takes place at this level involving the construction and reconstruction of new gestures, actions, habits and skills in the creation of
changing forms of subjectivity. But what distinguishes the present conditions from
those of the past is that human subjectivities seem to be products of increasingly
intensified self-regulation and self-management, not merely those brought forth by
the external power structures of the institutions of states or indeed by adults
(parents and teachers) in their supervisory role of the young.
Foucaults account of epistemic practices has been deployed by theorists of
education to show how those transformations which constitute human subjectivity
are socially generated and historically specific. Examples are practices such as childrearing or pedagogical techniques practices which, in the process of inscribing
social and political powers across the body, carve such relations into the very
configuring of being, and thus constitute its presence. In examining these, what we
see is the shift or transformation in the way in which subjectivity is present from one
age to the next. The bodies of those being educated are simultaneously shaped and
compelled through disciplines: while bodies can be said to discipline themselves in a


sense, they always do so within institutional frameworks and in discourses which are
outside of themselves and whose imprint they will bear. The body is the inscribed
surface of events; it is a text to be decoded and read a locus of production, the site
of contested meaning.
Such accounts of the body present it as imprinted by history, even though bodies
will always have to obey the laws of physiology and are indeed moulded by multiple
distinct regimes.5 Bodies perform in culturally visible space they are therefore
read by others and themselves in ways that are culturally determined. Such a
characterisation of bodies reveals the manner in which they are constructed and
inscribed as members of social groups such as indigenous, black, masculine,
feminine and so on, and reveals the working of various kinds of imagery that
assign degrees of power and control in social relations. In her complex formulation
of bodies Judith Butler demonstrates the two-sided character of human beings in
which bodies are simultaneously agent and instrument, that which acts but is equally
acted upon by others. Her conclusion that the body is at one and the same time my
own and yet, in the public sphere, somehow not mine raises questions that are of
considerable importance to social life generally but in particular to education. In fact
it this complex characterisation of the body which both informs and motivates the
exploration of human embodiment which I attempt in this work. The tension
between the body which is mine (that which I am?) and that which I am for others,
presents particular challenges for education. Some of these can be attributed quite
directly to dominant cultural imperatives in contemporary consumer societies.
It is obvious that there are increasing pressures upon us to regard bodies as
terrain upon which we work in order to create and maintain forms of subjectivity
that are open to the constant scrutiny and judgement of others. As we dress,
exercise, shape and continually discipline our bodies through diet, medical regimens
and, perhaps most significantly, through professional and personal development and
improvement programs, we do so through discursively constructed norms. But over
time such activities can and frequently do become projects in their own right. Now,
working on the body (making it our project and incorporating a moral, even
religious, dimension) takes on the significance previously accorded other kinds of
labour and there is no reason to think the effort it inspires is any less intense. Thus
bodywork represents a significant shift in focus from earlier conceptions of human
labour. The school curriculum incorporates certain conceptions of bodywork; these
function in complex but highly ambiguous ways to structure understandings and
attitudes regarding action and human agency.
The idea of bodies as self-conscious projects has currency in contemporary
literature in the social sciences as well as in everyday life. In the work of Giddens,
for example, bodily passivity is meliorated by its depiction as a means of psychological absorption and satisfaction for the self for whom it is the crucial form of
expression. Nonetheless in this depiction of the reflexive subjects of late modernity,
the body remains an object for a self which employs techniques of mastery in the
process of achieving competent agency. This sort of thinking seems to be reflected


in popular culture in which there is encouragement to produce an acceptable body.

In other words the body appears to be the prime object of a monitoring consciousness.6 As such, it seems to me, there is reinforcement of a traditional mind body
dualism in which consciousness or self monitors and directs the body. One outcome
of this may be an attitude of disdain towards the body a deep sense of suspicion
about what it might get up to if left to its own devices! Ultimately such a view lends
support to the idea that there are no limitations to a rational minds power over its
body. Much educational practice and the curriculum itself have often been
predicated on such a view, with some unfortunate results.
There are however, critics who detect a quite profound antipathy to the physical
body in theories of discursive bodies. I refer briefly to some of these below.
Although there is enormous variety in the themes and problems that such critics
address, what they all have in common is not only a determined opposition to
varieties of dualistic thinking about human existence, but also a specific interest in
what it is to be a body which is engaged in the endless diversity of activities that
characterise the human animal living in relation with its world.
Philosopher and feminist Elizabeth Grosz refers to a hatred of the body which
she believes is characteristic of some contemporary social theory. In a recent work
The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution and the Untimely, she urges us to go beyond
merely examining how culture inscribes bodies, and to address the question of what
is actually in the very nature of bodies that makes them amenable to cultural
inscription. Terence Turner writes of an aversion to the carnal aspects of human
existence and all that these entail for our self-understanding and self-description as
embodied beings. And according to phenomenologist Thomas Csordas, it is not only
reproduction and the everyday interdependence of bodies which appears to have
slipped into the background, but also the body as the expression of its own needs,
bodies which are in effect ourselves. In Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human
Beings Need the Virtues moral philosopher Stuart Macintyre notes a failure to
adequately recognise that we do not merely have, but are our bodies. This he relates
to the repudiation of human animality, the latter being one of my major
preoccupations in this book, and to which I refer as creatural existence.
The issue confronting such critics and myself concerns the manner in which
human subjects are situated within networks that cannot be neatly separated into
natural or cultural categories, but must be conceived as subjects who are not
only marked by discourses but who in turn mark those very laws and codes which
effect bodily inscription. Further, their work contributes in major ways to an
understanding of how embodied selves, through material relations with embodied
others, enact their lives. Through a variety of approaches, they draw attention to
the multi-sensorial nature of the body its creatural character including its
emotional attachments and motivations and how these function to socially immerse
human beings and non-human animals in ways that reinforce neither a mind body
dualism nor the well entrenched nature culture dualism. Further, the work of
otherwise disparate theorists such as the phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty and


sociologist of science Bruno Latour suggests a creative re-thinking of the earlier

subject (self ) object (material world) dualism, by means of an ingenious ontology
of the flesh in the case of the former, and an account of the folding of humans and
non-humans in the latter. Merleau-Pontys complex theory of perception and
Latours explanation of the manner in which the human and non-human spheres
meet and are reciprocally transformed in practice, provide valuable conceptual tools
in understanding the relational nature of bodies and their worlds.
The issue of relationship to world and to others is central to my exploration of
embodiment, a key focus being the bodys connection to the forces which shape it.
Of particular relevance therefore must be an understanding of the bodys relation to
place. Lived bodies are a dynamic connection to place: that is, to the experience of
the spaces which they habitually socialise through their activities great and small.
Like all creatures, humans create place through expending energy; indeed the body
is itself what Lefebvre calls a proto-place in that it constitutes ones corporeal here.
Place plays an animating decisive role in our individual and collective lives,
according to the contemporary philosopher Edward Casey: an account of creatural
existence cannot ignore the issue of implacement. It is essential therefore, in my
view, to an understanding of educational practice.
Scope of the work
Foremost in my awareness when I think about the theme of embodiment in
education is the sense-richness of human experience of the world. The senses do not
merely make sense of life but are our means of furnishing intelligibility and
ultimately our capacity to reason, judge and feel as we live out our lives. Since my
intention in this book is to explore those conceptions of human embodiment which
emphasise creativity, responsiveness, and relationship in a non-dualistic world, the
senses occupy a central place in my selection of particular themes dealing with the
body. It seems to me that educational theory, policy and practice in Western
consumer societies retains an allegiance to an excessively rationalistic view of mind,
or forms of cognitivism, which cast it as a kind of pilot steering a sometimes
unruly or unpredictable body.7 So to better understand consciousness and its
development by means of education we need to come to a renewed understanding of
how the senses can teach us about the world human and non-human, animate and
Because it deals with fundamental questions of being and knowing, my primary
sources in this exploration of creatural existence are philosophical. But the work as a
whole is interdisciplinary in that it draws upon social and political theory, psychology and especially cultural studies, studies in the visual and performing arts, and
architecture. In particular it emphasises the requirement for returning to those
discourses of the recently ignored natural sciences which place human embodiment
in the context of broader natural orders and systems.


My exploration begins with an examination of the functioning of vision in the

inherited philosophical tradition and most particularly in contemporary culture.
Since my focus is on the senses, I see this as essential because of the association of
the eye and sight with major views of knowledge, truth and reality. This is followed
by an examination of what I define as the creatural, and how it may be foregrounded
in educational thinking and practice. The theme of work and its meaning in an age
of disembodiment is then undertaken. In examining concepts of work I am not
motivated by a wish to reinstate a version of the virtue of hard labour but to show
how embodiment is expressed through the productive activities of bodies, whatever
these might be. Thereafter I turn to an exploration of emotion and education, a
theme I see as crucial to an understanding of how people learn. A brief critique of
citizenship and civics education concludes the work. Merleau-Ponty, philosopher of
the body par exellence is a key resource throughout the work. I draw also upon John
Dewey, particularly in terms of his explanations of the creatural and of practice. But
in an enterprise of this kind there is a great variety of rich resources available, that
illustrate the complexity and multidimensional nature of embodiment as a theme and
as a challenge to present thinking, including in education.
Thus I have drawn upon diverse theorists who share a commitment to overcoming
dualistic versions of creatural life. Among them are the philosophers Alasdair
MacIntyre, Elizabeth Grosz and Edward Casey. A particular kind of feminist
sensibility informs my thinking on the question of human embodiment. It is the sort
of feminism that understands the body first and foremost in its basically social
aspect as material activity. Such feminist works include those of Irigaray, Valerie
Plumwood, Carol Bigwood and in particular the writing of Megan Boler on emotion
in education.
Explorations of experiencing and experienced bodies of present ways of thinking
about the body and a reframing of a vision of human embodiment that does justice
to its active, sensuous, productive nature. The issues I examine are: the consequences for the body of the privileging of vision in our relation to the world and
the dominant concept of knowledge (the scopic regime); the problem of the bodys
materiality, its corporeality and its creatural status; the absence or disappearance of
the productive body and how we might develop anew a sense of the body as
potential; the importance of recognising emotion in our account of the embodied
subject; and the question of how social relations may be understood as embodied. In
the following I briefly outline what is entailed in these issues before providing a
short account of the significance of the work of philosophers and other theorists of
the body for such a project.
The scopic regime and its effects
Western philosophy has had a longstanding commitment to vision as that superior
sense through which a self knows the world. Since Plato, philosophical works have
been replete with metaphors associating knowing with seeing and with the eye as the


investigative tool that simultaneously distances subject from object and allows
control. In an ocularcentric culture, as Michel de Certeau tells us, everything is
measured by its ability to be shown, its ability to be seen.8 The historical
privileging of sight has intensified with modernity, and technological innovation has
resulted in a profusion of images, what Heidegger called the conquest of the world
as picture. Vision is the pre-dominant means by which the world is revealed and
the world, of course, includes bodies. Thus the body is that which shows itself
within discourse: it displays for us what is written upon it by discursive formations. I
will critically examine the claim that our sense of vision produces hegemony of
sight in cultural development and within educational theory and practice, as well as
in the curriculum. In light of this I will make a case for greater attention to the
multisensory experience of lived bodies which often go unremarked in the
accumulation of visual experiences that make up everyday life.
The epistemological privileging of vision in Western culture has had very
specific effects, including the disengagement of the body from essential social and
emotional connectedness. It fuels certain potentially repressive tendencies in
postmodern theorising that flatten the world and disengage the subject. The
dominance of the scopic regime and the epistemological consequences arising out
of the snobbery of the eye, I will argue, has had significant social and educational
consequences. The claim that consciousness actually takes the form of sight and that
the world we live in is itself structured in relation to an organism (ourselves) for
whom sight is an essential bond to matter, is for me a convincing one.9 Nevetheless
there are, I believe, significant dangers at the level of culture in vision-centredness.
These need to be addressed through changed educational thinking and practice. By
way of an examination of aspects of the school curriculum, specifically that of
citizenship education, I will identify some ideas and practices which I hope may
help us regain a sense of the multisensorial body subject. In directing attention to
the multisensoriality of the lived body, my aim is to place it, at the very least, in a
complementary position to systems of representations or texts, because the body is
the existential condition of the possibility for self and culture. From another
perspective, I am interested to find out how knowledge, specifically educational
knowledge, is corporealised.
Creatural Existence
While not a fixed biological entity resistant to discursive systems, the body is
nonetheless anchored in a relational web that is both human and non-human,
cultural at the same time as it is natural. If bodies have become for us those
objects which sell us to others, they are also that specific possession which provides
us with the means of self-recognition. They are those living, three-dimensional
forms that are not only inscribed but which are also involved in inscription
themselves. We are as Nietzsche and more recently Macintyre remind us, one
species of animal. Although we may indeed develop from our original animal


condition into individual, thinking agents, we remain human animals whose bodies
feel joy, fear and anger, impelling them to actions that continually constructs a
world they share with other species. Corporeality is the very condition for
subjectivity and, since education is about the construction of subjectivities, then it is
fundamentally about issues affecting incarnate bodies. An account of the nature and
ontology of the body relevant to education needs to address the ever-present
tendency in education towards the de-corporealisation of knowledge and to return
embodied subjects to the centre of all discussions about knowing and the production
of knowledge. Understanding what bodies are as well as what they become through
education and other processes is essential to this investigation.
The gulf that is produced in our being by the repression of the animal and the
living body was recognised most dramatically (and controversially) by Nietzsche
who valued the body, its explosions of power and its instinctual epistemology. For
Nietzsche the repression of the senses and the passionate body are the unfortunate
effects of the ascendancy of human consciousness and a conception of reason that
effected its separation from vital living nature. The domestication of the material
(natural) world for our consumption has been brought about through the privileging
of abstraction, which is the distinguishing characteristic of modern consciousness. In
Nietzsches philosophy the sources of human wisdom were therefore instinctual and
experiential and the embodied self at once cultural and creatural, a part of nature by
virtue of its animal character. What Macintyre reminds us of is our basic animality
that includes, as fundamental conditions, vulnerability and dependence
characteristics having special relevance to education.
Producing and re-producing bodies
Merleau-Ponty notes that our body is both an object among other objects, and also
one that sees and touches those objects. Taking this further, Latour argues that the
body is also responsible for the creation of those objects in the world, but not as
mere abstractions. The creation or production includes the bringing forth of the
artificial (material and symbolic objects) and the re-production of the human species
itself. Human endeavour and the objects which are its results, the production of new
human beings through the female reproductive experience are, I will argue, the key
manifestations of a resonant sensuality that is fundamental to embodied existence.
References to a producing body may appear out of step in a post-industrial age,
perhaps suggesting outmoded ideas about human labour. In classic depictions of
exploited manual labour of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, bodies of
workers often revealed the mark of physical toil and the consequent ravages of
poverty. The anger of many workers was directed at what was regarded as the
appropriation of the bodies of workers by capital. But my account of productive
bodies aims at directing attention to bodies as potential, not merely as constrained,
disciplined and inscribed by alienated labour. Productive bodies were
distinguished by the experience of doing work of specific kinds; that is, they became


skilled bodies shaped by the continued practising of the tacit knowledge they had
acquired over a long time. Thus skilled workers (including domestic labourers,
male and female) interpenetrated their worlds of work and in fundamental ways
were fused with it as they created material objects across the spectrum of the built
and manufactured environment, private and public worlds. The bringing into being
of previously non-existent objects was, at least in part, an unfolding of material
culture and as such emphasised the fulfilment of human potentialities. Moreover, it
could be argued that productive bodies have always in some significant sense
furnished possibilities for the construction and fulfilment of identities.
At a time of proliferating discourses about bodies, the labouring body finds
itself to be decidedly unfashionable. This should not really surprise us; the urban
based proletariat of earlier times has now declined and there have been profound
alterations in the definition and configuration of work in post-industrial societies.
Just as it is now often said that mass consumption rather than mass production is the
distinguishing feature of late modernity, now too we may come to regard the body
itself as that most desirable object of consumption. The bodies of the collectivity
(workers), at least in the developed world, have been replaced by the consuming
body of the postmodern era. Nevertheless while it is true that the earlier working
body was in the main depicted as a machine, an object for external manipulation by
employers, it nonetheless could also be seen as subject that is as, active, in some
cases as inventive, skilled and practised.
If producing bodies are less visible in discussions, then the reproducing body is
also discursively submerged. In any case the mothering body has always been
difficult to accommodate in most theorising. It was mainly of concern to feminists,
some of whom, in an understandable desire to purge it of its unfortunate historical
associations with brute matter and passive nature (for Merleau-Ponty its incarnate
situation) have overemphasised its discursive status as representative of various
groups of women. Hence it has become almost commonplace to insist upon the
primacy of a discursive understanding of reproduction. But as the sociologist Arthur
Frank insists, bodies do not emerge out of discourses and institutions: they emerge
out of other bodies, specifically those of women. The experience of the pregnant and
reproducing body somehow tend to be submerged or excessively culturalised so
that the certain living pulsation which it is, remains repressed. The approach that I
take in this work is that the corporeality of the body, its materiality and its obviously
natural character, continues to challenge present thinking about inscriptive female
Emotional and communicative bodies
Since the body is both communicative and active, it must be regarded as a body
in process of creating itself and therefore, subject. Body-subjects are not simply
subject to external agency, but are simultaneously agents in their own socialconstruction of the world, unpopular as this view may now be. Gesture, body



orientation and proximity are vehicles through which the body-subjects meanings
are actually expressed, and expression presupposes an intersubjective encounter. If
the communicative body is about the sharing of others embodied experience in their
pleasure and happiness as well as their unease or suffering, emotion is absolutely
fundamental to its functioning as embodied subject. So we need to find a way of
better understanding emotion in human embodiment, and most particularly of attending to the social dimension of emotion. This suggests that a certain kind of
education needs to be undergone and that all aspects of educational theory, practice
and policy would need to be reassessed.
That emotion has been until recently a somewhat marginalised concern in the
Western philosophical tradition is now quite widely acknowledged, but its absence
from versions of the inscriptive or discursive body must also be recognised. Because
bodies enter specific discussions for the most part only as discursive constructions,
real bodies only construct themselves in the image of those of the dominant
discourses. It is not in the nature of discourses to register the detail of our everyday
relationships with our bodies, so the emotional lives of embodied subjects are
usually absent. But if emotion is the wellspring of human action, it is surely nothing
less than the generative point for all individual bodily dispositions, orientations and
attitudes. Therefore active, producing bodies are also always emotional bodies. The
thing is that most thoughtful, intelligent and caring classroom teachers are well
aware of this. It seems, however, that educational theorists and policy-makers may
not be quite so conscious of it.
An understanding of embodied praxis requires that we address the issue of
emotion, for if the body is to be understood as more than that which constitutes
individual subjectivity, then it must be conceptualised in its essentially relational and
interactive dimensions, not simply in its socialised form. This is precisely what
feminist theorist Megan Boler has provided in her major work Feeling Power:
Emotions and Education. Theorising the body as more than simply that bounded by
the skin requires distancing from the notion of the passively inscribed body to that of
the emotionally charged agent of embodied praxis. Such a move then emphasises its
status as social phenomenon. This is the focus of Bolers analysis. There is, I
believe, a need to shift attention from the inscribed socialised (passive) body to that
of the communicative, relational and interactive aspects of embodiment that is, to
the body embedded always within intersubjective relations, including those of other
species and the outside world. We need therefore to think of emotion as always
implicated in those activities which entail collective embodied action and the pursuit
of common goals an adequate understanding of social agency demands a concept
of embodied agency. Embodied selves, expressing feelings and dispositions
communicatively that is, intersubjectively inhabit their places in the world. So,
properly understood, emotion functions as a guide to, and a preparation of, the
individuals action, itself the source of generations of social relations.
The sociality of emotion is crucial to thinking about education because at
present, conceptions of learners and of learning as well as dominant curriculum



discourses all tend to confine emotion to specific areas of the curriculum and to
severely limit its application in theories of learning. In terms of the latter, there is an
assumption that the familiar independent reasoning or cognition are the crucial
ingredients in the acquisition of knowledge. As educators we know, of course, that
student learning does not occur for individuals without emotional involvement the
emotional depth that is necessary for an accurate assessment of ones own
situatedness as a learner in a social context, only occurs when there is a developing
awareness in each of us of our involvement with others and that involvement is
always emotional at some level. In exploring this theme I draw not only on Bolers
work but also, on the sociological literature notably on the works of Lyon and
Barbalet as well as Maffesoli.
Corporeality and the world
In the works of Nietzsche, Merleau-Ponty and Dewey, as in that of MacIntyre and
others, we encounter the body as the centre of the experiential world. Because our
bodies are constantly in interaction with our environment, world and self continually
inform and reshape each other. These philosophers of the body provide an
immensely rich source of ideas for thinking about revitalisation of embodied
subjectivity in social life and in education. In The Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche
showed that the body and its various parts are acculturated through a great variety of
practices, including those that libidinalise the body. It is Nietzsche as champion of
the passionate and sensuous natural body, critic of Cartesian rationalism,
interpreter of Darwin, existentialist and philosopher of process, whom I want to
draw upon in the rehabilitation of the experiencing and experienced body. In his
advice to start from the body and employ it as a guide, he acknowledges this
bodys naturalism, its (organic) materialism and most importantly its potential. For
Nietzsche it is the body that is the sole source of any truth that could be achieved.
The peculiar structure of our senses evolved over a very long time renders the
world the way it is for us, and so we think in the ways we do because of the kinds of
bodies we have. A different kind of biology would yield a different universe. As
Lakoff and Johnson acknowledge in their comprehensive and critical work
Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought,
it is the body rather than the mind which interprets the world. I would add that what
knows are our multiple sensory powers which are the very ground of those
imaginary constructs by which we live and flourish.
In his day Dewey insisted that we acknowledge the bodys primacy, but it would
not have been a body comprising only an inscribed surface upon which are written
the discourses of the culture but rather a feeling, thinking, desiring, willing, vital,
material agent. In order to understand human being and becoming, that despised
object the body must be reinvested with all its interests and passions. Nietzsches
materialism, like Deweyan naturalism, invites us to rediscover the body as locus of
all human action. Both reject the aristocratic status given to reason and spirit in the



Western philosophical tradition and emphasise that it is the characteristic mode of

human beings to affectively think about their experience and thereby to create
significance for themselves. The creation of meaning must surely be the paramount
aim of education.
For me thinking, reasoning and cognition are in fact simply specialised functions
of our basic bodily drives distilled and refined over time. Consciousness is not to
be thought of in absolute terms but rather is present only to the extent that it is
useful. It is philosophers who have placed their trust in concepts at the expense of
the senses, thereby elevating consciousness as an ideal and final attainment. Such
philosophical idealism was, for Nietzsche, insupportable. Consciousness and ideas,
he believed, are only generated out of the will to truth and power. Concepts are true
only to the extent that they are the very conditions of life for us. We cannot
do without them precisely because they are the means by which we chart our
perilous path in a chaotic world. Embodied subjects produce ideas, beliefs, values
unavoidably as they battle to maintain their ongoing existence. As Nietzsche
reminded us our lust for knowledge of nature is a means through which the body
desires to perfect itself. Philosophising, as with all intellectual activity, is at base a
part of our attempt at survival.
Both Dewey and Nietzsche acknowledged the working of the body of emotion
and desire in knowing the world, Dewey noting that preference and temperament
played the key role in deciding what to believe, Nietzsche identifying the will to
power as the wellspring of human action. For each, ideas have their root in desire
and the interests of the body. Ideas arise out of the desire to know; those which
survive are those which are most vigorously pursued and forcefully insisted on as
truth. For Dewey the ideas that survive are the ones that work. Thus mind/body,
mental/manual dualisms are basically pseudo-problems. The issue was not about
how the material and non-material could ever interact, but rather why it is that
experience in all its variety and complexity ever comes to be distinguished at all.
The answer to this key question had of course already been provided by Nietzsche,
who showed that in order for us to control our physical environment (matter, the
organic realm) in any way at all we had essentially to mentalise it to distinguish it
from the material realm.
So reasoned reflection and so-called primary (bodily) experience are not
descriptions of two separate realms which human beings straddle, but rather they
exist on a continuum upon which, for Nietzsche, consciousness is merely the latest
and last development of the bodily organs. The idea therefore that experience can
only be meaningfully talked about when emptied of its physicality and materiality so
that only then can it be seen as an essentially knowledge issue, is one of the major
mistakes of the philosophical tradition. The privileging of cognition at the expense
of the totality of complex processes constituting the intercourse of the living being
with its environment reinforces a view of ourselves that is not only impoverished
but also dangerous. When incorporated uncritically into the educational curriculum
it may have disastrous consequences.



Overcoming dualisms: Merleau-Ponty and body-subjects

Merleau-Pontys work and that of others I have mentioned are in my view, central to
any genuine attempt at furnishing a compelling account of lived embodiment. The
extraordinary richness of Merleau-Pontys account of embodiment as simultaneously subjective and objective, mental and material, personal and interpersonal,
natural and social, provides a remarkable resource for the project of recovering the
experiencing and the experienced body for education. Merleau-Ponty assigned a
central role to the body as the subjective matrix of experience. His conception of the
body-subject as effective agent emphasised its intersubjectivity, which is to be
understood as an historically situated and institutionally configured social order.
It is the concept of perception which renders his account of embodiment
significant. Perception is not about objects in the world affecting subjects. Rather the
perceptual field itself is constituted through the articulation of body and world. It is
an entirely in-the-world affair in which there is quite simply something which is
seen. Perceivers become decentred in relation to the visible world. The perceptual
field which constitutes the perceiving subject, surrounds that subject as far as the
eye can see so that perceiver and perceived are relational beings. This suggestion of
a common visibility, a presence of each to the other in a mode of equality of status
allows not just the animate seer (persons or other species) to grasp others, but also
places the non-animate in a position of viewer. As I will show later in this work, this
original way of thinking has important ramifications for our understanding of
materiality. It also provides an effective antidote to that ocularcentrism which
characterises much of contemporary culture and as such, I maintain, provides us
with a splendid opportunity to redefine what might be envisaged by the term multisensorial education.
For Merleau-Ponty, perception is always a multisensorial embodied experience.
It consists in meaning-generation: the actual seeing, hearing, tactile encountering on
the part of embodied sentient beings. Mind cannot be a separate entity from the body
since it is the body that furnishes the meaningful configuration of senses which is
the process of perception. The bodys visible-tangible presence is crucial to
perception in Merleau-Pontys account; as percipient, one is always positioned one
always perceives from somewhere, and it is ones visible, tangible presence which
furnishes this somewhere. Merleau-Pontys argument is that we cannot even begin
to talk about perception without a theory of embodiment as the perspective from
which each and every observation must occur. So a fuller understanding of daily
living actually depends upon our both having (a body) and being embodied.
The account of enfleshment which Merleau-Pontys last work The Visible and
the Invisible contains is one of the most illuminating insights we have into the
problem of understanding lived bodies as systems of possible actions through the
meshing of these bodies with the perceptible world. He revolutionises the customary
idea of the thing and the world by moving the usual boundary between subject
and object to situate it anew within the body. Flesh thus comes to incorporate bodily



being but, crucially, is not confined to it. As embodied perceivers we always already
belong to, or are of, a surface from which we can never be regarded as completely
separated. Embodiment therefore is not a matter of humans being mere objects in
space. It always involves a form of perception based in behaviour: in looking,
listening and touching, all of which are acquired as cultural, habit-based forms of
conduct. For Merleau-Ponty the experience of embodiment is like nothing else we
have throughout our lives it is in fact the very basis for our having all experience.
Our bodies are nothing less than our characteristic way of being in the world.
Unpacking what exactly is entailed in this characteristic way is, I think, a major
task for education.
Merleau-Pontys discussion of carnality allows us to make sense of the social
dimension of embodiment. He presents the practice of communication as always
being generated from within social contexts and therefore it always pertains to the
specificities of individual body-subjects situatedness. We speak from our place to
others also placed that is, to say, positioned in space, or as Cataldi describes it
ecologically niched. Bodies speak and are spoken to in this communicative
configuration. The double process of speaking and being spoken to underscores an
important point: embodied agency can be seen as reflexive agency, and because this
agency arises out of the reality of language exchange as well as other intersubjective
activities (bodily actions and positionings), then particular attention should be paid
to regimes of embodied action or body repertoires which constitute the intersubjective world. These are realms of shared meanings participated in by bodysubjects in the mutually cooperative transformation of their world. Body subjects, by
virtue of their involvement with the social world, develop culturally typical ways of
being and doing. These need to be recognised and understood, particularly as they
play out for differently embodied subjects in educational and broader social
Merleau-Pontys work is critical for the discussions about embodiment and
education in its own right as a major contribution in phenomenology, but also
because of its important interconnections with other thinkers. For example, his work
on the body, like that of Deweys on the complexity of embodied experience, drew
upon the psychology and neuroscience of the period in which he lived. His
contributions can be configured as carnal sociology because of its insistence that
forms of embodiment are always routinised and habituated within a culturally
configured world. Last but not least, Merleau-Pontys work provides a particularly
useful way of conveying a sense of the material dimension to connectedness and
fundamental sociality that avoids the restriction to surface notions of the inscribed
Deweys unity of the embodied human being
In his articulation of the nature of human practice, Dewey insisted that consciousness is a constructive function of action but that emotion is the engine of all



activities. He concentrates attention on the body with all of its interests and passions
as the locus of all human activity.
In Experience and Education Dewey wrote of the continued growth of flesh and
blood human beings in their social relations noting that life itself is this very growth
and development and nothing more. Education therefore has as its end the ongoing
interaction of embodied individuals in their social context. Thus Deweys naturalism
reveals its social character; his focus on the social is the correlative of his
naturalism. Meaning which is unavoidably social, emerges from embodied
cooperative human activity. By ongoing participation in the activities of a group,
individuals learn to respond with habitual orientations to the charged stimuli of
their environments. Embodied communication is the way in which, over time,
people grasp things in common and come to partake of communication in a
communal understanding. This, in my view, is the very foundation for effective
Deweys understanding of human embodiment is clearly outlined in his account
of the unity of the human being. In this he provides a critique of the Cartesian
subject, noting that the boundaries by which we have been accustomed to mark off
the human being are very different from the energies and organisation of energies
which make her a unified human being. Whereas we can grasp the boundaries the
skin at a single moment, on the other hand we can grasp the unity only as
something occurring in a stretch of time. Despite this complex reality, the view of
the person as being that which is encapsulated within the skin remains firmly fixed
within the dominant culture. Yet we cannot grasp what is entailed in being an
embodied subjectivity unless we understand the interaction that internal bodily
processes have with the environment outside of the skin. As Dewey reminds us,
entire philosophical systems have been built up by treating thinking about the self as
if it had no connection with the activities the body executes in the environment,
including, notably, those bringing satisfaction and enjoyment.
Through language and gesture, which go beyond the individual bodys neural
structures and processes, the human collectivity participates. So it is that by means
of this process, things beyond the body (other bodies) are engaged with in a neverending communication with the environment and with them. There is always an
active, operative presence of environing conditions in the activities of a human
being. Dewey points out that when a human being loses integration with the medium
in which it lives it then loses integrity within itself, thereby developing pathologies
and other psychic disturbances. The environment about which Dewey writes so
compellingly is always social it is the world of interpersonal relations. For him
there simply is no single human activity or experience that is not socially



Bodies in education
The body is both a problem and a challenge for educational thinking and practice at
the present time. Education, I will argue, remains embedded in a culture which,
though in many respects still adhering to a basic Cartesian dualism, nevertheless has
undergone a peculiar transformation or taming at the hands of discourse. Thus
earlier formulations such as the mental/manual distinction in knowledge, the theory/
practice, consciousness/world dichotomies, the reduction of experience to mere
knowledge experience, continue to influence educational thinking. But in many
places these older conceptions now sit uneasily beside a (partially) textualised
curriculum and discursively constructed accounts of learners, teaching and
knowledge. At the formal and institutional levels the curriculum is still to a large
extent evaluated in terms of whether or not it conforms to standards of rationality
and abstraction. In this traditional approach the body had long been denigrated and
despised. But now as the sole object of social and political discourses in education
(as the inscriptive body) it may be lapsing into silence, a mere surface upon which
history and culture write themselves. The task therefore is to bring to light the body
as multidimensional, as agent and as locus of all possible action.
As a teacher and philosopher of education, and drawing upon the work of the
philosophers of the body and other writers on corporeality, I want students to come
to a critical understanding that the act of knowing is always replete with the relations
and connections that accompany experience. In other words I hope to help them to
understand that arriving at knowledge is not a mere end-product, a set of
abstractions stripped bare of all that is experiential and sensuous. So I have posed
such questions as the following: If the maintenance and enhancement of the body is
the mainspring of the desire to know (as Nietzsche tells us) then how, for example,
does the highest-status knowledge in the present curriculum reflect this, and how
closely is that knowledge linked to everyday human experience? To even begin to
address such questions requires that all of us, students and teachers, reflect upon
what has been our own experience of embodiment.
Educational theorists have often appeared to be rather uncomfortable with the
brute fact of corporeality. Their discussions of cognition, social phenomena, and the
development of intellectual skills or moral reasoning have been frequently carried
out as if bodies were something of an embarrassment. Moreover, the body has been
largely absent from work on academic performance and achievement (except of
course in the areas of physical education and sport and some more peripheral areas
in the curriculum). Motility and gesture the somatic have been relegated to the
margins of educational research into the process of knowledge gaining, of
becoming educated. We have tended to accept that the body will be absent in our
accounts of the construction of human knowledge and this absence is echoed in our
research on how and what our students know. Therefore to understand what is really
involved in the making of different kinds of epistemic subjects I think we must now



focus with determination on the corporeality, emotionality and sociality of human

beings and their material processes.
The relationship of the body to place and space may seem to be dealt with in a
variety of ways in the present educational curriculum. Yet it is arguable that students
really have opportunities for exploring the multiplicity of experiences and
behaviours associated with often contested and potentially conflictual places, spaces
and environments within which as differently embodied, socially constructed
subjects they live. For example, is an examination of issues of spatial meanings and
spatial behaviour, awareness of boundaries and territoriality, its history in human
affairs and significance today, available to them in a way that is not purely
theoretical and abstract? How are the place preferences and collective attitudes
towards environment of significantly different social groups (and I have in mind
here a global, not just a local comparison) conceived as natural and social? What are
the experiences of embodied sociality that could be encapsulated in the curriculum,
such that students may come to be aware of the deepest meanings generated in their
common corporeal experience?
As I have noted, there has been a movement within the social sciences away
from the notion of human productivity through embodied interaction and a turn
towards the discursively constructed body as an object of scrutiny. In its current
educational forms the latter emphasises the health of the individual body, the
cultivation of healthy lifestyle habits, advice on individual sexual behaviour,
establishing patterns of regular exercise, much advice on diet and so on. Most of this
material is incorporated into learning or curriculum areas which could be said to
have an underlying social theme, but which remain conceptually and theoretically
underdeveloped. What is missing here is the recognition of the role of the body as an
agent within a world of bodies producing bodies that is, bodies which are not
only dieted, clothed, shaped and groomed but crucially bodies which work (in all
sorts of ways) and in so doing transform themselves and their world.
In consumerist societies there are, as Lyons and Barbarlet point out, no
competing images with the consuming body. Such a body is increasingly passive
it is the body we have and the body we do things to.12 It is, in other words, the
body which is disciplined by regulatory discourses and which we own, but which,
strangely, we are not.13 A central concern of this work therefore is to attempt to
answer the following question: How can education be specifically concerned with
those lost dimensions of ourselves that had resisted instrumental rationality in past
generations, but that have now become the object of violence inflicted by others, or,
increasingly, by ourselves?
Civic life and the embodied citizen
Nowhere are the questions and issues raised above of greater importance than in the
area of citizenship education. I think this area of the curriculum shows most starkly
the contemporary crisis of the body. In an age in which individuals are being



educated to see themselves primarily (and in many places, only) as consumers, and
private consumers at that, the lived body and the body as natural, social and cultural
force has become submerged. Educating the body is not an idea encountered in most
programs of citizenship education today. Ideas about democracy and the development of democratic dispositions as a way of being do not at present include the
body. The development of democratic dispositions is for the most part seen to be a
strictly cognitive affair and there is a profound conviction on the part of some that
emotion and affect have nothing to do with the process of educating young people
for participation in civic life.
One of the major problems at the beginning of the twenty-first century concerns
the basic process of social reproduction the means by which society maintains
itself, how it reproduces effectively socialised people who have the capacity for
meaning-creation and the will to engage in a wide variety of socially useful and
individually satisfying projects. The decline of sociality, a shrinking of preparedness
to participate in activities in groups and in the community, is accompanied by an
increase in the consumption of cultural products (television programs, videos,
computer games) as a largely individual and often isolated activity. Enormous
changes in employment opportunities, workplace practices and an increasing lack of
security about economic survival in a globalising world, contribute to a fragile social
fabric, one in which social capital is fast evaporating. Citizenship education
meantime remains anchored in a view of both self, society and nation that has
contributed to a diminished sense of agency while at the same time presiding over
the dismantling of meaning for individuals and nations. Developing a sense of
citizenship that is an embodied one, that takes account of emotional community and
collective sensibility, is in my view essential for a form of citizenship education that
is relevant to the future. The key question for me is: How can the body be enabled to
create the forms of civic life? In the final chapter of this work I will suggest what is
necessary for citizenship education to bring this about.
Directions of Discussion
In Chapter 1, I address the theme of the scopic regime and its various cultural
influences upon understandings of the body. The aim of this chapter is to provide an
insight into the ways in which vision has been privileged in Western thought at the
expense of the other senses. The ramifications of this for educational thinking and
practice, past and present, will be explored, and implications for what I call
multisensorial education will be outlined. In Chapter 2, I explore in some depth the
idea of the lived body, contrasting it with that of the discursive body. The theme
here is that of the implaced creatural body. I will discuss how this might be renaturalised without a diminution in human agency. In this connection, I will argue
for a particular conception of education in the flesh.
Chapter 3 focuses attention on the decline of the producing and re-producing
bodies and the problem of how to recover a sense of vital, potent embodiment that



gives full rein to human creativity. I will mount a case here for emphases on certain
sorts of subject matter in the curriculum, and specific practices to be undertaken in
the service of providing what I will call education for meaningful existence.
In Chapter 4, I undertake a study of the role of emotion, particularly with regard to
an understanding of the notion of human sociality. I will attempt to sketch-in the
significance of these for educational theorising and practice. Finally, in Chapter 5 I
conclude the work by addressing the theme of citizenship and education, arguing
that effective education in this crucial area of the curriculum demands a strong sense
of the lived body if it is to be meaningful.
1. There is an enormous contemporary literature on the body, approaching the theme from a variety of
perspectives. The Continental European tradition in philosophy has yielded Merleau-Pontys bodysubject and later the disciplined body of the work of Foucault. Deleuze and Guattari have
contributed the idea of the body without organs. Social theorists such as Turner, Hepworth,
Featherstone, Csordas, Frank, Barbalet, Lyon, Elias and Falk have commented extensively on the
difficulties that arise in current theorising on the body. Feminists on the body include Irigaray, Bordo,
Grosz, Gatens and Butler and there are many more. Important collections such as Donn Weltons
Body and Flesh: A Philosophical Reader, Heidi J. Nast and Steve Piles (editors) Places Through the
Body, and the monumental three-part Fragments for a History of the Human Body edited by Michael
Feher, present immensely rich and varied accounts of human embodiment. The journal Body and
Society is admirable for the breadth and depth of its multidisciplinary discussions of issues of the
body and embodiment.
2. Among contemporary philosophers, Alasdair Macintyre makes the point strongly when in Dependent
Rational Animals. Why Human Beings Need the Virtues (1999), he reminds us that we do not merely,
have, but are, our bodies. The inadequacy of language to describe the reality of human embodiment is
noted with characteristic lucidity and wit by Terry Eagleton in his critique The Illusions of
Postmodernism (1996). A particular complexity however needs to be borne in mind regarding the
problem of language and the body. The issue of having or being a body is obviously one that arises
in Anglophone discussions. The German language has two different terms to refer to the body,
Korper and Leib, the former referring both to bodies other than my own and to a corpse, the latter
to the living body with its sensations, feelings and perceptions. The histories of the terms Leib,
Korper, life and the English body are intertwined in interesting ways, as are those terms used to
refer to self, body, person etc in many other cultures including those of China and Africa.
3. I am aware of the fact that the term contemporary society is highly problematic. What I have in
mind are what are variously referred to as Western, late capitalist or more commonly, postmodern
or consumer capitalist societies. Having lived and worked in places that do not fit any of these
descriptions, but whose peoples and cultures have insights about embodiment of great depth and
sophistication, I acknowledge the rather narrow scope of reference of this work.
4. This crucial notion of the body as doing and being done to is to be found in Judith Butlers work.
Elizabeth Grosz has described bodies at the present time as more amenable, malleable and more
subordinate to mind or will than ever before.



5. Amongst post-structuralists Judith Butlers work is notable for its treatment of the question of the
material body. Butler refers to the processes of materialisation for example, sex is an ideal
construct which is forcibly materialised through time, it is not a fact or static condition of the
body. She is, however, clear on her insistence that bodies are public sites as well as being ones
6. I agree with several critics of Giddens conception of consciousness that it is an essentially strategiccognitive ego, one that keeps the body under regulation (see for example Lash & Urrys Economies of
Signs & Space and Anthony Elliots Psychoanalytic Theory: An Introduction). One is also reminded
of what Bruno Latour refers to as the earlier mind-in-the-vat version of Kantian constructivism in
which the transcendental Ego dictated most of the worlds laws, laws it has extracted from itself
without help from anyone else (Pandoras Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies, p. 6).
7. I refer here to much developmental theory that has been influential in education (especially in
teacher education), that has emphasised mental or cognitive development largely without reference
to the body; but also to more recent analyses of race and gender which emphasise discursive
construction, while ignoring lived embodiment.
8. The critique of ocularcentrism by French thinkers in the twentieht century include works of Bergson,
Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Lacan, Derrida and Irigaray. Martin Jay, in Downcast Eyes: The Denigration
of Vision in Twentieth Century Thought, provides a comprehensive treatment of this critique. Michel
de Certeaus discussion of vision is to be found in his The Practice of Everyday Life, University of
California Press, Los Angeles, 1984.
9. In his thought-provoking book Thinking Matter, Joseph Catalano makes the point that the only
consciousness we can know about is that which takes the form of sight.
10. The habit is to be found not only within the curriculum itself but also in theories of knowledge,
learning theory and pedagogy, much of which ignores or at least minimises the role of emotion.
11. The centrality of love and empathy to solidarity was an idea that, before Marx, had attracted
12. Lyon and Barbalet believe that the prominence of the consumerist body is a function of the fact that
the mental has achieved complete domination over the manual. It is an issue I take up later in this
13. In one of the strongest of the inscriptive accounts, for example, that of Gayatri Spivak, the bodys
materiality is inaccessible to us and knowledge of the body is achieved only through mediation (it is
therefore in a sense the body which we are not). Spivaks claim supports the view that there are
merely thinkings of the systematicity of the body, there are only value codings of the body,
culminating in the view that the body as such cannot be thought. If we still want to retain the
language of materialism all we can say is that materialisation is effected through discourse as
language and by means of (discursive) practice: bodies are materialised through discourse as both
word and deed. The notion of materiality in play here directs attention to the idea of a discursive
construction by means of the process of material constitution itself. As with Foucault, emphasis lies in
the manner in which subjects are gradually, really and materially constituted through a multiplicity of
organisms, forces, energies, materials, desires, thoughts, and so on.



The new fascination with modes of seeing and the enigmas of visual experience evident in a
wide variety of fields may well be token of a paradigm shift in the cultural imagery of our age.1

The ramifications for human embodiment of a continually globalising culture cannot

be underestimated. There are many possible paths that could be taken in attempting
to gain some understanding of these. One way is to explore the power and influence
exercised upon individuals by globalising forces through an exploration of the
peculiar role, status and functioning of vision as an immensely powerful cultural
trope in consumer societies.2 I have selected this theme because the visual model of
mind has played a central role in the Western intellectual tradition, and seeing and
knowing have had the longest association in that tradition, making vision
enormously epistemologically significant. It seems to me that the paradigm of
seeing, of vision, is without doubt central to any discussion of present social
conditions and therefore relevant to education. As I have outlined in the Introduction
the focus of my exploration is the multisensorial experiences of lived bodies. This
requires an engagement on my part with those forms of analysis which have taken as
their central theme vision and its function, not merely as one of the senses, but also
as the most powerful symbol of how, as humans, we understand and relate to the
world. A key element in such an undertaking is to address the variety of concerns
raised by critics about the power of images, and what theorists of visual culture such
as Nicholas Mirzoeff call the postmodern globalisation of the visual as everyday
The image now sits at the centre of global culture; there is a seemingly
inexhaustible process of production and circulation of images that distinguishes
contemporary life. Individuals are exposed to a succession of images flowing across
every realm of culture including the workplace and the home. Such a veritable
avalanche of images could not have been predicted even fifty years ago. As cultural
analyst Mieke Bal comments:
period of scarcity when images were relatively rare is currently yielding to an
economy of plenty or of excess in which television, cinema, newspapers, magazines,
books, advertising, design and the internet all participate in making the social fabric
scintillate with the profusion of images.4

In the past decade the volume of images circulating globally has increased
massively both in terms of distribution and consumption. The process of distribution
of images has been accelerated by advances in electronic technology. This
frequently has the effect of detaching them from their origin, simultaneously



rendering them ephemeral, ahistorical and decontextualised. Cultural boundaries,

previously serving to frame and preserve specific imagistic traditions, now dissolve,
allowing the merging and reshaping of images in ways that could not previously
have been foreseen.
But however ubiquitous images may be, claims concerning their psychological
effects on individuals need to be carefully assessed. The belief that we are somehow
overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of visual representations in ways that are quite
different from that of earlier times remains open to question. While we may
from time to time appear to suffer from a kind of vision-fatigue (bombarded by the
succession of images conveyed on television screens, at the cinema or on the Internet), there will nevertheless be significant difference in the responses of the
individual to this. So perhaps quantity is not really the issue. As Camiel Van Winkel
argues, it may be not that there is an actual overabundance of visual representations
but, on the contrary, a perennial sense of insufficiency with regard to them. As
recent events such as the terrorist bombings in London and the war in Iraq illustrate,
the imperative to visualise is the driving force of contemporary culture a drive in
which there is relentless pressure to see what has happened. The demand is for the
constant provision of new and enhanced sites for the production of images. Van
Winkel writes of a regime of visibility that permeates all levels of culture and
society from centre to margin, from high to low.5 The quantity of images is
therefore less powerful than the imperative to visualise.
If the world is now presented to us most convincingly through the lens of the
camera, by means of television footage, or via images on the Internet, what then
might the ramifications be for creatural embodiment? Is the body in its multiple
sensory dimensions somehow diminished by this excessive attention to sight, to
vision, to the eye? We might ask therefore what pleasures are afforded through
vision and, indeed, what pains do they bring? And not least, what are the
ramifications for education of a vision-dominant culture?
These broad and complex questions raise some of the most significant issues for
a re-examination of the situated, fleshy, creative self. In this chapter, I will address
them by focusing on three of the most important themes arising out of critical work
on the hegemony of the eye, best known in the relevant literature as the problem of
ocularcentrism. Beginning with critics of ocularcentrism in the philosophical
tradition, and drawing strongly upon a wide range of other resources, I explore the
issue of visuality and its cultural implications for a corporeal subjectivity that is
not only project, but practice, and thus the very source of its experiential world. This
discussion of the dominance of the eye is intended as both a ground-clearing
exercise and an introduction to themes outlined in the Introduction, which will be
revisited in subsequent chapters dealing with creatural existence. I begin with the
theme of the eye and vision because it foregrounds the notion of multisensorial



Ocularcentrism and its critics: The hegemony of the eye

There have been many critics of ocularcentrism, and their work is diverse in
orientation.6 By no means is all of the work philosophical in character, but
undeniably philosophers have provided the sharpest critiques. Some refer to a
preoccupation with the world as picture, that is a predominantly visually represented
world. Both Nietzsche and Heidegger located the origins of the problem of
ocularcentrism in classical Greek philosophy, and associate it with Hellenic
thoughts privileging of sight over the other senses, as well as with the special
status in classical times accorded light in enabling human beings to know the world.7
Although the critiques of ocularcentrism in Nietzsche and Heidegger take different
paths with differing emphases, they have in common the view that the worst
tendencies of an earlier age of vision dominance have been intensified in modernity.
For Nietzsche the privileging of vision was part of the general denigration of the
body and its displacement from its rightful place as the source of all (multisensorial)
experience, while for Heidegger visions hegemony was further entrenched by
technological invention permitting the eye to strengthen its grasp on the world. Both
saw ocularcentrism as reducing and restricting the individuals experience of the
world, thereby impoverishing human existence.
Beyond attributing the origin of a vision-centred world view to classical Greek
thinking, many critics disagree to a greater or lesser extent over subsequent
manifestations of ocularcentrism in Western culture: for example, on the extent to
which the Middle Ages in Europe could also be said to have privileged vision above
other senses. However there is more general agreement on the sources of modern
ocularcentrism, which is traced back to Descartes philosophy and to Cartesian
perspectivalism.8 What Martin Jay calls the vigorous privileging of vision
accompanied the technical advances, marking the dawning of the modern era. At the
present time ocularcentrism, according to its many critics, is the foundation of the
scopic regimes that are said to order the world. This ordering has many aspects,
and a variety of effects one of which is particularly relevant to the project of
recovering the body for education. I refer to the manner in which major aspects of
technology and culture have appeared simultaneously to order the world by firstly
separating and then downgrading the other senses. However, this effacement of the
other senses is not simply a characteristic of postmodernity; on the contrary, it has
roots in much earlier times.
The contemporary phenomenologist Drew Leder is among the many who discern
a certain telos toward disembodiment in Western intellectual history.9 Central to
this, he argues, is the privileging of the eye and vision. David Michael Levin, in one
of his major works The Opening of Vision: Nihilism and the Postmodern Situation,
deploys phenomenological psychology and critical hermeneutics to link human
suffering and injustice to certain predatory modes of vision. Others have argued that
sight is accorded pre-eminence among the senses, and thinking itself has been



thought of in terms of seeing. Sloterdijk regards the eyes as having been the
organic prototype of philosophy per se, his most radical claim being that a large part
of philosophical thinking is itself merely eye reflex, eye dialectic and seeing
oneself see.10
In classical Greek thought certainty was grounded in the visual, a theme which is
later given fresh force in Descartes account of seeing and knowing; it is, in effect, a
valorisation of a disembodied eye. Plato held sight to be humanitys greatest gift; his
notion of the minds eye has been a significant one in Western thought, not least
for much later theories of mind and cognition, but also because of its assertion that
ethical universals are available to the minds eye. Platos emphasis on the purified
soul, the centrality of the cogito and Cartesianism all tend towards an account of the
human being as characterised pre-eminently by an immaterial rationality. Classical
Greek philosophy abounds with metaphors of knowing as seeing. Inseparable from
this is the depiction of light as the invisible medium giving access to a knowable
world.11 In Greek thought visibility represents the ultimate certainty of a reality that
must be confirmed visually. The immateriality of sight made it for Aristotle the most
important and most noble of all the senses: sight for him approximated the intellect
more nearly in that it is relatively immaterial in its knowing, the other senses
assuming an inferior position.
However, as I noted earlier, the claim that the ocular bias of classical times
regarding knowledge and the senses has persisted in an unbroken line to the present
is problematic. There is considerable disagreement among scholars across disciplines
about the extent to which pre-modern European society could be described as
ocularcentric in orientation.12 Certainly the high status accorded vision is to be found
in pre-modernity, but so too is the acknowledgement of the functioning of the other
senses. In the Renaissance the five senses were configured as a natural hierarchy
from vision as the highest down to touch as the lowliest, each being related to the
image of the cosmic body: thus, vision was equated with fire and light, hearing to
air, smell to vapour, taste to water, and touch to earth.13 But the increase in
importance of vision culturally is directly an outcome of the invention of
perspectival representation in art, which is thought to have rendered the eye the focal
point of the perceptual world as well as placing it at the very heart of the notion of
the self.14 Perspectival representation itself is transmuted into a symbolic form, one
which not only describes but also conditions perception. However, there were other
factors, and these had to do with the developing of quantification techniques in the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a brief discussion of which I undertake further on.
While a detailed account of the status of the various senses in relation to
knowledge in the early centuries of the Christian Church, the Middle Ages, the
Renaissance and so on into modernity, is beyond the scope of this book, nevertheless it is worth noting that by the time of the infusion of a Platonic element into
Christianity in the twelfth century, the already existing separations of human beings
from nature, incorporeal mind, and spirit from body, were well established, as too
was the latters association with (inferior) matter. Such beliefs had deep roots, at



least in the high culture of the time. These separations fitted well with the Christian
repudiation of the body, nature and the feminine, remaining to later underpin the
innovations of Cartesianism on the nature of mind, thinking and the human being.
Despite vigorous contestation of these ideas both in Descartes time and at the
present time, they continue to influence our understanding of ourselves and of the
world.15 The idea, for example, that we see with our minds continues to have
currency both in the wider culture but also within educational thinking.
Nevertheless, while the arguments of anti-ocularcentrists are compelling in many
respects, they also need to be approached with caution. This applies as much to
claims regarding the founding Platonic myth about vision and knowledge as to later
intellectual trends and material change that underlay them. Platos account of knowledge and human grasping of it actually reveals a more complex attitude to vision.
His position was one of scepticism about the reliability of all of the senses (not only
sight, but certainly including it) in regard to knowing the world, rather than an
uncritical acceptance of the superiority of vision in gaining knowledge. We can look
for example at his repudiation of the arts, specifically at his distrust of painting
which he forbade any place in the ideal state as described in The Republic, and his
dislike of theatre because of its illusory nature. Interestingly music, because it shares
with mathematics an imitative relationship to the loftier realm of the forms,
was acceptable. Nevertheless, as the architect Juhani Palasmaa has pointed out
knowledge has become analogous with clear vision, and light the metaphor for truth.
Indeed the notion of sight has not only been made analogous to cognition but also to
other sensory dimensions as well. Since the Greeks the philosophical writings of the
West have been characterised by ocular metaphors regarding knowledge and
In my view the story of visual pre-eminence cannot be told purely by reference
to philosophical and cultural historical studies, no matter how critical in tenor.
Ongoing work in the natural sciences has crucial insights to contribute to debates
concerning the dominance of the eye. Broadening the disciplinary purview allows one
to assess afresh the complexity of arguments mounted by critics of ocularcentrism.
An important outcome of this expanded investigation is the emergence of a
particular distinction that between visions functioning in perceptual experience of
individuals on the one hand, and what Jay identifies as vision as cultural trope, on
the other. The latter has been the focus of philosophical and social critiques of
cultural discourse, and these continue to provide important understandings
of ocularcentrism. But I think they now need to be supplemented by a wider set of
intellectual resources. Therefore, while I have neither the expertise nor the space to
address in any detail those contributions from the natural sciences here, nonetheless
I accept that they are essential to a full consideration of the significance of vision in
creatural life.
The processes involved in visual perception, research into optics, the working of
the eye in creatures of all species, are legitimate objects of investigation. Research
and debate occurs within and across a range of fields from the neuro-sciences and



psychology to zoology and marine biology. Sight is undeniably a function of

physiology and thus evolution, a genetically determined capacity arising in the socalled natural realm. The work of Andrew Parker, for example, on the Cambrian
explosion from which the eye emerged and the number of phyla or animal
classifications multiplied rapidly, dramatically emphasises the point that sight
matters.16 We cannot simply do away with it, even if we are repelled by the cultural
hegemony of the eye. Therefore if we want to understand why vision seems to have
monopolised the other senses and why it exerts cultural dominance, then there are
some basic biological and evolutionary realities to be acknowledged. These include
the fact that most of the bodys receptors are located in the eye, that light enters only
through the eye and that the behavioural system of human beings has already been
shaped by vision throughout its evolutionary history.
It is on this basis that the contemporary philosopher Joseph Catalano takes a
definitive position with respect to vision and consciousness, his argument being
that our bond to the world can only be by means of our organs of which sight is
primary.17 For Catalano, human consciousness has emerged in such a way that
vision is essential; the only consciousness that we know about is one in which sight
is the dominant aspect. Regardless of illusions or errors in perception, regardless of
issues of interpretation, regardless of how the great weight of culture and tradition
presses down upon our sense impressions of the world, Catalano argues that with its
basic differentiation, the world is the way it is because our body is the way it is, with
the eye as the initial means of contact we have with it. This is a strong statement
from biology about of the pre-eminence of the eye and the dominance of vision in
embodied individuals relations with the world. Put this way it does seem to present
an unequivocal claim for the superiority of vision amomg the senses.
Attractive as I find Catalanos argument, I am concerned that it could be used to
support a kind of visual determinism relying not only on a significant downgrading
of the other senses but also ultimately on a narrow identification of the concept of
mind with the brain, an idea successfully contested by philosophers of embodied
mind such as Daniel Dennett and Mark Johnson, and the linguist George Lakoff.18
For these, as for Merleau-Ponty, vision is crossed with the other senses in a
complex collaboration to reveal the world to an embodied consciousness. So, for
example, although our eyes can take us across a landscape, around buildings, up and
over hills and into the distance, projecting us across time and locality into far-off
places, such viewing implies an unconscious touching, a bodily mimesis which
draws upon haptic memory. It is this the haptic which really gives us the sense of
distance and the three-dimensional nature of all objects.
But our assumption about the primacy of vision in knowing the world is also
subject to critical scrutiny from other quarters. Re-examinations of the precise
functioning of vision in perceptual experience undertaken by Dennett and colleagues
in perceptual psychology, have significantly challenged established views,
problematising the relationship between perception and the world, and questioning
the accepted view of vision as revealing to us by means of images, exactly what is



present in the world and where precisely it is located.19 Such empirical work
reminds us powerfully of the corporeality of seeing, and that we still do not know
with certainty what we perhaps thought we knew about the immensely complex act
that is visual perception. The analysis of visuality and ocularcentrism requires this
input as much as it requires the sort of analysis encountered in fields of cultural
studies, art history, aesthetics and media studies, all of which in different ways help
to explain the nature and varieties of socially constructed visual practice. All
contribute various forms of critique which ultimately illuminate the manner in which
the visual functions as a scopic regime ordering the world.
A world ordered through a scopic regime
The claim of visual culture to be new rests on the assumption of a pictorial or
imagistic world, one that claims to have supplanted recent structural and linguistic
versions of social construction. The centrality of the image dominates such views,
which at one extreme propounds the notion that contemporary life itself takes place
on screen.20 Everyday life, it seems, is lived increasingly under the ruthless eye
of video surveillance cameras which are to be found everywhere in workplaces,
government buildings, shopping malls, highways and within automatic teller
machines. Moreover in the workplace as well as in their leisure activities, increasing
numbers of people engage with the visual through the use of computers. On the face
of it, human experience now seems more obviously visual and visualised than it has
ever been. For critics the visual is associated with the spread of technological
culture. Television, and perhaps to a lesser extent movies, mediate the lives of
millions of people. Interactive visual media such as the Internet and virtual reality
applications intensify and shape life for increasing numbers throughout the world.
Thus for analysts such as Nicholas Mirzoeff, seeing is not just a part of everyday
life, it is everyday life.21
Most anti-ocularcentric writing reveals an awareness of the crucial place of
vision in knowing the world, but also a concern with the capacity of images to
overwhelm us and to render us passive spectators. It seems that there is anxiety
regarding our sense of identity which now appears to assigned to us mostly through
the eye, and through what is seen of us by others, the idea being that we are most
fully grasped in that moment of instantaneous perception of the eyes of others. This
was a view that had earlier been most fully explored by Sartre in his highly
influential account of the gaze.22 More recently, though on the one hand we seem
through technological means to have transcended what we were once the limits
imposed by our bodily anchoring in a particular time and place, on the other, we find
ourselves strangely flattened by the pruriently interested gaze of others. This is a
cause for concern in some critics, but by no means all. Such anxieties seem to
W.J.T. Mitchell, one of the strongest critics of the anti-ocularcentrists, to reveal a
deep suspicion about vision and a fear of the image that is quite unwarranted.23 But



to be fair, most critics of ocularcentrism base their objections on more than just a
simple fear of the image.
In its philosophical exploration of the functioning of vision, Levins Modernity
and the Hegemony of Vision attempts to reveal how the drive for autonomy is tied
up with the aggressiveness of vision haunting contemporary ocularcentric culture. It
has, he believes, a peculiarly intimate connection with the will to power. Hence he
The will to power is very strong in vision. There is a very strong tendency in vision to
grasp and fixate, to reify and totalise: a tendency to dominate, secure and control, which
eventually because it is so extensively promoted, assumed a certain uncontested
hegemony over our culture and its philosophical discourse, establishing in keeping with
the instrumental rationality of our culture and the technological character of our society
an ocularcentric metaphysics of presence.24

Levin refers to the psychosocial pathology of everyday seeing which according

to Juhani Palasmaa amounts to an imbalance in our sensory system. Levins
linking of the dominance of the eye with patriarchy reminds us that, historically,
while the senses per se were regarded as feminine (in contrast to the masculine
character of rationality), nonetheless within the realm of the senses there were other
divisions. In the pre-modern West, while it was acknowledged that both males and
females were equipped with the full range of senses, it was considered that they used
them for different purposes men were associated with the distance senses (sight
and hearing) which were necessary for travelling and governing, while the female
senses (smell, taste and touch) were the proximity senses associated with home
and intimacy. As Constance Classen has demonstrated, the association of men with
sight was embedded in the cosmology, medicine and popular culture of pre-modern
Europe.25 While sight was linked to the male sun in cosmology there was also
thought to be a direct relationship between sight and the male organs of generation.
The notion of the seminal eye had appeared in the work of Aristotle as well as in the
Platonic notion of perception. In contrast there were many cultural practices that
supported the association of women with sightlessness but also most particularly
with taste and the olfactory. Male visuality was regarded as being symbolically and
even physiologically opposed to female sensuality, epitomised as touch. Thus were
sensory and gender hierarchies reinforced and the ground laid for later formulations
not only of the primacy of vision, but of a re-emergence of a sensory order that
privileges the retinal image over multisensorial experience.
Therefore, rather than simply denying the functioning of vision in human
knowing, we need to better understand ourselves, says Levin, as visionary beings.
In order to do this, however, we need first to grasp the depth to which our world
view, our characteristic way of thinking, is imbued with a sense of the superiority of
vision, especially in relation to questions of knowledge, truth and reality. An
ocularcentric paradigm, in the view of its critics, is about a vision-generated, visioncentred interpretation of knowledge and the means by which we attain it. According
to anti-ocularcentrists, there have been historical connections between vision and



knowledge and it is these that have had such disastrous effects for the development
of the dominant culture. In their view, both the connections and the effects need to
be re-examined and their negative cultural outcome recognised. The privileging of
sight over the other senses in generating knowledge was neatly encapsulated in a
work published in 1938, titled On the Rationalisation of Sight by William N. Irvins,
who declared that :
Science and technology have advanced in more than direct ratio to the ability of men to
contrive methods by which phenomena which otherwise could only be known through
the senses of touch, hearing, taste and smell have been brought within the range of
visual recognition and measurement and thus become subjects to the logical
symbolization without which rational thought and analysis are impossible.26

This association of vision with a view of knowledge that was quantificatory

signalled a sea change in the general mentality in European culture beginning in the
fifteenth and advancing most rapidly in the sixteenth century, a growing fascination
with measurement. The eye was portrayed by Leonardo Da Vinci as the master of
astronomy and cosmography. It also advised and corrected all of the human arts,
conveyed men to faraway parts of the world, in addition to creating architecture,
perspective, painting and navigation. Contemporaneous with this was a gradual
alteration in culture towards a quantitative outlook concerned with calculation and
manipulation of materials, but also, at least among the upper classes, with external
appearance and style in individual dress and deportment. In his classic work The
Waning of the Middle Ages, the historian Huizinga comments on the increasing
obsession with the minutiae of superficial appearance in dress in European courts,
which occurs at a time in the fifteenth century when literary preference turns away
from poetry to prose, this move being seen to match the growing cultural preference
for more precise means of exact physical description. Huizinga believed that thought
itself during this period began to take the form of visual images.27 That sight had
become the predominant sense was to him, as to subsequent theorists, irrefutable. Of
singular importance were the philosophical critiques mounted against ocularcentrism, amongst which Nietzsches is significant because of its place within his
larger critique of modernity and its neglect of the body.
Nietzsches critique of ocularcentrism is inextricable from his defence of
embodiment and criticisms of that cornerstone of the Western philosophical tradition
rationality. It is the body with all of its sensory powers which knows. He argues
against the association of vision with truth and knowledge, reminding us that the
concepts of pure reason, absolute knowledge and absolute intelligence all
presuppose a kind of overseeing eye, an eye that cannot be imagined, one required
to have no direction and to abrogate its active and interpretative powers. Assertions
about pure reason and absolute knowledge were for Nietzsche based on the
transcendental assumption of this all-seeing eye. But there were even more basic
aspects of the privileging of vision in the Western tradition which he found
disturbing, especially the spectatorial distancing of subject and object, and the
process of abstraction said to characterise reflection at its highest level. These are



all negative features of rationality, having all but obliterated the role of the senses
(touch and hearing in particular, as means of access to reality), and most important,
the functioning of emotion in human perception and in all of our knowing.
Rather than the highest human achievement being that of pure rationality (in the
Classical Greek sense) it is the passions and interests of the body at work in the
world as power and desire that properly occupy such a position. We can only know
about the world that which our limited senses will allow us to: we grasp our world
with our bodies. In Nietzsches account of human being and knowing, knowledge is
both shaped and circumscribed by our bodily capacities.28 So while he accepts that a
crucial capacity is that of vision, he nonetheless mounts his critique of the
domination of the dispassionate gaze in terms that suggest a deep understanding of
the effects of a vision-centred culture. The hierarchisation of the senses and the
resulting long ascendancy of seeing could only be overcome by acknowledging all
the senses. For Nietzsche the submersion of the senses is a key element in the
triumph of an arid Apollonian tendency in modernity which, in chaining the body,
had the effect of making us unlearn how to behave as an animal. His critique of
Cartesianism includes admonitions against relying on visual experience as a sole
source of knowledge. Nietzsches criticisms of Apollonian art are interwoven with
his critique of the reigning paradigm of knowledge. The complex and creative
intertwining of the Apollonian, individuated pure form with the unseeing forces of
self-dissolving Dionysian energy in the realm of art had its counterpart in the
cognitive domain, in the disruption of both the speculative (rationalist) and
observational (empiricist) ideals of neutrality by the ever-present demands of the
life-affirming instincts, the senses, or that which the historian Rolls calls the
individuals total capacity.29 Twentieth century critics of ocularcentrism philosophers,
cultural and social analysts and others owe a debt to Nietzsches vigorous
denunciations of the eye outside of time and history.
Faith in the neutrality of the knower and hence the objectivity of knowledge, is
disrupted by Nietzsches reaffirmation of the materiality of the body against the
disembodied mind. In this Nietzsche was in tune with Bergson who, prefiguring
Merleau-Ponty, insisted that the body was the centre and ground of all perceptions.30
Interestingly, the hegemony of vision comes to be challenged in the name of the
body. Along with Nietzsches death of God was the eventual challenge to the
Gods-eye view of knowledge, and ultimately the demise of the dualism consisting
of a subjective consciousness and the mimetically reproduced object, and hence
the decline of belief in the old Platonic dualism that was so intimately connected
with sight.
Among the critics of the hegemony of the eye and the dominance of vision
culturally, Heidegger stands out because of his insistence that a world picture does
not necessarily mean a picture of the world, but refers to the world both conceived
and grasped as a picture.31 This is a complex notion which suggests that visual
culture does not in fact depend on the multiplicity of pictures or images in
themselves, but rather on the tendency of increasing millions of people to visualise



existence. Indeed it is this visualising tendency which according to Heidegger

radically distinguishes the present period from that of both the ancient and medieval
worlds. Hence, while visualising and the visual have always been present,
nonetheless it is only in recent times that they have become absolutely inevitable
and unavoidable. This is the principle of visualising in general and recalls Van
Winkels notion of the imperative to visualise.
With the growth of modernism sight had become intensified, especially through
technological means, and has gathered pace in recent times. Heidegger, like
Nietzsche, deplored the subject/object dualism which is further entrenched in
thinking and culture generally by according vision pre-eminence. The notion of a
looking-at that fixes and, in so doing, sunders and compartmentalises is deeply
entrenched in Western thinking and in the tradition of knowledge, according to
critics of ocularcentrism. But it is not the only way of characterising vision. Even
Heidegger, like Merleau-Ponty and later Levin, allowed for the possibility of a much
less negative version of vision. What they suggest is a non-oppressive kind of seeing
involving a primordial opening of the senses which is prior to the differentiation of
each into its own characteristic mode. After differentiation, this more benign sense
of vision remains as Umsicht that which is a non-invasive, pre-reflective and
altogether more care-full sense of vision. It is, I think, a view found at its most
comprehensive and persuasive in Merleau-Pontys work, where the seer is positioned within a visual field, not anterior to it, and thus not aggressively towards the
object of her gaze. She is therefore limited by what she can see around her, the main
point being that something is allowed to be encountered; this is not the invasive
staring, nor an aggressive interrogation of the scopic kind.
Nevertheless, because of the prevalence of the latter kind of vision in modern
life, the world becomes a standing reserve to be dominated by human beings. So
although Heidegger agrees with most of the critics of ocularcentrism who decry the
predatory and intrusive nature of the dominant vision, he offers hope for a less
damaging visual engagement with the world. Levins view of the possibilities of
ways of looking that are exploratory and multiple, inclusionary and context-sensitive
is compatible with Heideggers but he explores more fully the possibilities of nonaggressive ways of seeing. In this he provides an antidote to Sartres bleak account
of le regard and its devastating effects on its victims.
Technology was a problematic issue for Heidegger because he saw it as the end
product of the distancing impulse in which the already existing gulf between
subject and object became intensified. For him, technology quickens the pace of the
conquest of the world as picture, becoming a means of more sharply delineating the
subject of modernity, standing separate from his world, surveying and manipulating
it. A distinguishing feature of the Modern age was that it had entrenched the notion
of a correspondence between object and mental image. Heidegger was of course
familiar with the technology of photography and film which existed in his day, but it
is interesting to speculate as to his reaction were he to become familiar with the
technological extensions of the eye manifested in more recent technologies, which



for example take us into the realm of virtuality. I do not agree with Heideggers
general position on the evils of technology, and will, for example by reference to the
work of Bruno Latour in subsequent chapters, show how certain technologies can be
seen as an extension of the senses rather than as instruments of de-humanisation.
Nevertheless I see Heideggers critique as providing a warning about the dangers of
undiscriminating, uninformed and passive acceptance of technologies.
It is important to grasp that the critique of ocularcentrism mounted by Nietzsche
and Heidegger encompassed crucial insights regarding the ordering of the senses,
that is the hierarchical organisation of them and the status each carries. I refer to the
attention paid by both philosophers to hearing, listening and sound. In Nietzsches
work there was an insistence on the centrality of the aesthetic, especially music, in
the life of the individual. For him music had pride of place among the arts; it so
intensified our sense of vigorous participation in life effecting meaning in unique
fashion. He recognised that music was both physically and emotionally based,
arising within the body, and therefore must always be a product of embodied
functioning. Heideggers critique of the ocularcentrism of Western culture involved
paying special attention to language. He argued for a revival of a sense of authentic
listening in face-to-face encounters which he felt had become submerged in favour
of a reduced-by-half conception of communication and knowledge reduced
because of its failure to adequately account for complexities of genuinely attentive
listening.32 The visual, which for both Nietzsche and Heidegger emphasised the
spectatorial, implying distance and exteriority, contrasts with the oral and aural (the
auditory system in the psychologist J.J. Gibsons terms) which is embedded,
incorporating and centring in its effects on humans.33 The claim here is that there
exists an intimacy achieved through the auditory by the individual with things in the
world; it is regarded as having none of the remoteness of a visual relationship.
Feminist critiques of ocularcentrism, emphasising the negative effects of the
look and focusing upon the manner in which women have been the object of a
patriarchal and predatory vision, have been important in providing an understanding
of the ways in which both selves and knowledge are gendered. Irigarays exploration
of the theme of ocularcentrism is important for a number of reasons, but particularly
in my view, because of its unapologetic assertion that women should secure their
identification with all that opposes itself to the specular and phallogocentric culture.
In Marine Lover Irigaray engaged with Nietzsches account of womens supposed
lack of essence and that enigmatic aspect which prevented their full incorporation
into an economy based on the spacialisation of the eye.34 Her work is in part a
sustained critique of the pre-eminence of the image in contemporary culture,
identifying processes and effects of the symbolic marginalisation of women. This
project is carried out, in my view, without losing sight of the fact that, as Grosz
affirms, female bodies remain in their materiality, firmly located within larger
biological systems.
Understanding the potency of the gaze (not only the male gaze) is important, I
think, in assessing the effects of a dominant visuality on various social groups and



individuals, because it raises the problem of the way in which people groups and
individuals can be objectified by judgements that are made on the basis of physical
appearance. Though race and gender have been the focus for analysis of the negative
effects of stigmatisation, there are people in other social categories who can suffer
severe forms of social sanction: those who are unusually short or large for example,
and those not fitting the cultural norms for bodily attractiveness. While this account
of the gaze might appear relatively harmless in the larger scheme of things, there is
much evidence to suggest that, reinforced through inscription within specific
discourses of abnormality, desirability, beauty and even health, such assessments
can have a negative effect on, for example, individuals prospects for employment.
They may limit participation in education and social life generally, and can elicit in
others various kinds of character disparagement and perhaps, ultimately, a denial of
human rights. There is much historical evidence to support the view that the visual
has been deeply implicated in the denigration of various groups, leading eventually
to persecution and even annihilation. The hegemony of the eye has always been
profoundly involved in racial vilification, sexism and homophobia. In present
cultural conditions it is very easy to mobilise visions fascination with surface
appearances to dehumanise others. These are surely matters with which educators
must engage, especially those who claim to have students health, both physical and
emotional, as their particular responsibility.
Pathologies of ocularcentric culture: Identifying some problems
Though the special status of sight as the pre-eminent sense is a fact supported by
physiological, psychological and perceptual evidence, nevertheless critics of the
dominant visuality see its operation and its effects as pathological in that they
produce dysfunction in human relations, in some instances reducing the individuals
capacity for agency and limiting their opportunities for a full sensuous existence.
Underlying much of the distrust of vision in contemporary culture are three concerns
which it seems to me can be drawn from the anti-ocularcentric and related literature.
These I believe have considerable significance for explorations of embodiment and
education and relevance for the larger project of reviving our awareness of the
corporeal dimension of human subjectivity.
The first of these is the role of the visual in consumption and the question of how
visuality is implicated in the everyday lives of consuming selves under present
social arrangements. In reflecting upon how identities are now constructed through a
variety of media, a clear ocular bias can be discerned. A somewhat hazardous
undertaking at the best of times, identity construction for the individual under
present social conditions is complicated by what Melucci calls an excess of
symbolic possibilities, conveyed powerfully by images. This can affect the young
most deeply in adolescence, a time of greatest vulnerability. The power of the
brand name in advertising in particular, but also in other areas, to cast individuals as
mere extensions of the products they consume, is probably underestimated. The



circulation of images, whether on television, at the cinema, through the Internet, on

billboards, on public transport vehicles or by a host of other means, continually fuels
consumption and not only among the young. The important point about all of this
is that the surfeit of images conveyed through various forms of advertising can make
the world appear much more readily available to us than it actually is, or indeed,
ever can be. Yet paradoxically while we are, as it were, bathed in images, we can
also find ourselves curiously distanced from the world.
Distancing, then, is the second of the issues arising from various critiques of
ocularcentrism. Having both psychological and social dimensions distancing has
been dealt with in great depth and in a variety of ways by critics, so here I have
simply distilled what I take to be the essential elements of an argument about what it
is and how it functions. As a feature of a visually-dominated culture, ocularcentrism
casts individuals as passive spectators whose characteristic mode becomes a sense of
detachment from an objectified world, including other people. While the sheer
quantity of images may play a role in distancing, it is the functioning of images in
satisfying voyeuristic impulses in the viewer that some critics find disturbing. For
example, because of the saturation of images of violence and cruelty conveyed on
television, one may almost casually observe the suffering of others (victims of war,
refugees, non-human animals) yet remain largely impervious to the carnality of such
horrors. Palasmaa refers to this as a kind of chilling de-sensualisation and deeroticisation of the human relation to reality.35 For critics such as Levin and
Frederic Jameson, depersonalisation can occur through exposure to an endless
stream of images; for Jameson, there is a pornographic quality to many of our
transactions with others.36 At a deeper level, distancing can, over time, preclude the
development of a sense of embodied implacement, of that being-in-place, which
Edward Casey regards as essential to human flourishing and the better understanding of which, I maintain, should be recognised as a prime educational aim.37
The third issue arising from the critique of ocularcentrism is the problem of the
downgrading of the role of the other senses under the hegemony of the eye. For me
this is the most compelling of the issues because it draws attention to the ways in
which the mesmerising flow of imagery may serve to nourish only the eye and so
deny these other senses their respective roles. Further, the issues of consumption and
of distancing are directly related to the suppression of the other senses; our eyes may
embark on a quest for gratification that our sense of touch, smell, taste frequently
modify or even limit. While much of the time our relations with others are genuinely
intercorporeal and therefore multisensory, we can still maintain the fiction of
sensory and mental detachment from them through the visual distancing process.
But if, as Eric Rolls claims, our senses constitute our assessment of life, then any
assessment which does not encompass the working of ears, nose, skin, tongue,
skeleton and musculature in interaction and collaboration with the eye is not only
deficient but probably, if made habitual, then also profoundly disabling.38 The fact is
that in our everyday experiences, including those that appear perhaps to be the least
multisensorial (such as sitting at the computer, writing a book, or casting an eye



over items on a restaurant menu) the collaboration of the senses is at work. That
educational practice and the curriculum may still not adequately reflect this reality is
a major theme to be addressed further on in this work.
So I want now to look at each of the three themes consumption, distancing and
the neglect of multisensoriality, in greater detail in order to demonstrate their
significance for a better understanding of how vision-centredness may impede but
also enhance an awareness of the corporeality of human creatural existence.
Consuming images
The consumer is the primary kind of agent in contemporary societies and is rapidly
becoming so in those societies which are transforming through embracing market
economies. The term individual may still refer to the citizen but these days it is
far more likely to mean the consumer, or the customer. We speak of consumers
of healthcare and education in the same way that we talk about consumers of
electricity, CD players or red meat. Capital, as Mirzoeff points out, has commodified
all aspects of everyday life including, crucially, the actual process of looking.
Debords well-known depiction of the society of the spectacle in which everything
is held in thrall to an essentially spectator culture, presents the consumer as passive
in the face of his culture, with desires revolving around the ever-increasing demand
for more and more products. Debords explanation is that the image-dominated
culture is the result of the spectacle becoming capital to the extent that transforms it
into image. Hence brand logos such as Rolex, Jaguar or Nike are recognised in
whatever context they are encountered. As Mirzoeff argues, the link between capital
and labour disappears completely in the mesmeric power of the spectacle.39 In the
image society we are sold the sizzle rather than the steak, the image instead of the
object. It was Baudrillard who took this to its logical extreme when he wrote of
reaching that stage in which the object disappeared entirely and only the simulacrum
remains. For him images have a murderous capacity they are murderers of the
The continuing globalising of culture, new forms of modernity and movements
of population on a scale hitherto unforeseen, make for an unsettling situation in
which the pressure to generate more images becomes relentless. Exhilarating as this
may appear at times encouraging us to employ our imaginations in the practice of
our everyday lives it can also represent for many an aspect of those changing
realities that engender a profound sense of crisis. It is in respect of this that another
aspect of visuality seems to have a pivotal function this is virtuality, which is now
to be encountered everywhere: in cyberspace and the Internet, television and the
telephone. The term virtual reality is commonplace, not least because of
the facility with which electronic impulses transport money around the globe. The
important point here is that the distinction made between the virtual and the real (a
feature of earlier discourses) is no longer prominent. Rather, the complex arena of
the interaction of what is simultaneously local and global (most importantly, the



incorporation at the level of the individuals own self project of the global into the
local), means that present day cultural practice in all of its extraordinary diversity, is
at one and the same time both real and virtual.
Television is thought by some critics to have provided the convention of viewing
par excellence, that of passive spectatorship. Mirzoeff notes that cable television has
now moved away from reliance on texts and narrative and has emphasised imagebased material which is dominated by graphics, stylisation and special effects.41 In
fact the artificiality of the medium is accentuated through the extensive use of
computer graphics and hand-held camera techniques. Extraordinary numbers of
people own at least one television set which is turned on for up to eight hours in a
single day. Certainly, while television is viewed at the same time that other domestic
activities are carried out (notably, eating), it is probably fair to say that the type and
range of activities that could be carried out simultaneously with viewing are strictly
limited (you probably cant play the piano, develop photographs, paint the room, or
practise your golf stroke at least not if you want to do these things well!). So the
point about the essential passivity of much television viewing is well made. The
impact of television on children has been a topic for considerable research and
debate over the past few decades but until fairly recently it has been program content
that has usually occupied educators. The impact on whole populations and cultures
is still being assessed. It is the spectatorship aspect that is significant in the present
discussion, that is, the manner in which passivity (not just physical, but social and
even moral) may become ingrained.
While television viewing is more obviously a passive visual activity, it is in the
creation of virtual computer environments, allowing viewers to actually enter
contexts, that questions about the effects of visuality become complicated. In virtual
reality facilities the viewer can manipulate images, find her way around a site
(whether it be the inside of the human body or the galaxy), thus undergoing an
experience that is not available in any other form. It is frequently presented as a new
form of reality which is the result of extreme specialisation of computer technology.
Digital biology is one of the most advanced fields in which, for example,
participants can watch the flow of cells from within the veins of a particular life
form, can move about inside a creature variously shrinking and expanding in size,
speeding up or slowing down the passage of time the better to see this or that organ
or process at work. Participants in virtual reality environments have an interface
with the computer that furnishes them with a visualised world that is completely of
an interior kind because it cannot be experienced in the flesh-and-blood world of
everyday life, but is nevertheless undeniably real. The difference between this kind
of experience and that of being a viewer of film or television, is that in the former
users have the freedom to manipulate their own point of viewing whereas in the
latter they are fixed as recipients of the material that is being presented.
But exhilarating as certain kinds of virtual reality experience undoubtedly are,
the question still needs to be asked: what impact does computer virtuality have on
everyday life? Among culture critics there are widely differing views on this. While



some see the situation as offering remarkable possibilities for future virtual
experience and the increasing virtualisation of much of social life, others see it as
reifying a mind/body split that is undeniably patriarchal as well as reinstating an
ideal of viewing that is phallic, colonising and panoptic. Yet the virtual environments do offer some genuinely new experiences, notably the opportunity for an
individual to go beyond the given and to alter the conditions in which they will
experience the space within a specific environment. The potential for change and
growth in ones opinions and viewpoint through the interactive function seems at
first glance to be considerable and obviously no final verdict on its possibilities can
be made at present. Yet so much of it still appears to be structured by the traditional
hierarchies that have shaped and determined everyday reality throughout the period
of modernity, though perhaps in a slightly altered configuration.
Despite claims to the contrary, the Internet is a space that is as historically and
culturally determined as any other. It is for example configured according to gender,
class and race. First, while it is true in theory that anyone may access the Internet, in
practice it is still only available to a minority of the global population. These are
usually people of middle-class with a relatively high level of education, more male
than female. Second, users can, by the activities they engage in, communicate with a
relatively narrow section of the society. If they choose, for example, to shop or
socialise via the Internet, they may be able to avoid contact with the larger
population, that is with those of certain racial, ethnic or social class backgrounds.
This may seem a trivial point but when it becomes habit it may have an impact upon
the individuals sense of social diversity and appreciation of difference. Third,
despite the fact that at the time of their inception, the Internet and other virtual
environments appeared to offer alternative forms of sexual and gender identity, and
that bulletin boards and multi-User Domains, for example, allow online persona to
be created out of any gender or sexual identity one wishes, nevertheless a rather
traditional, and indeed stereotypical, set of imaginings around gender still seems to
underpin much content.42 But perhaps the most significant issue is the extent to
which much text-based material is now being replaced by images, in other words by
the directly visual. Real-time video contact is now not only possible but increasingly
widespread. An interesting point not often acknowledged, and certainly not by
educators, is that the move towards the increasing use of virtual visual technology
received its original impetus from purveyors of pornography.
At the beginning of his book Digital Biology: How Nature is Transforming Our
Technology, Peter Bentley invites readers to accompany him on a journey to a place
filled with beautiful and exotic plants which are made from the flow of electrons
within the digital universe of the computer.43 But he warns that in order to enter this
digital universe we must first abandon our physical form, and don our digital
bodies. Virtual contexts such as this are often portrayed as a form of liberation for
those with various kinds of disability, notably those with motor impairment. For the
hearing-impaired, cyberspace is a realm in which their particular disability becomes
irrelevant. Technology grounded in the visual has allowed hearing-impaired to have



much greater communication with the hearing world than previously. The
representational medium of the Internet, email, etc, appears to have been particularly
attractive to those suffering autism, seeming to allow communication in situations in
which the face-to-face encounter would overwhelm the attempt to communicate. It
is churlish and wrong-headed to deny the value of such media in these instances. But
it would be a mistake to think that bodies are of no significance in such activities
simply because they are temporarily eclipsed. On the contrary the bodily
disappearance of the self while in cyberspace, its apparent immateriality whilst in
that space, merely serves to remind us that it is, nevertheless, always there, even if
temporarily, only as tacit background.
The issues raised by anti-ocularcentrists about a culture that is significantly
visualised are important especially in relation to the theme of the creation of self
under conditions of consumer capitalism. Awash in images representing every
conceivable kinds of goods and services, consumers may be unaware that they not
only consume the physical properties of objects but also the image which identifies
their style, aspiration and attitudes. Because we may experience powerful, even
overwhelming exposure to symbolic stimuli, it can seem that we have access to an
unlimited range of symbolic possibilities (information, products, unprecedented
varieties of relationship, new identities, new opportunities for self-exploration). The
opportunities for participation in new kinds of visual practices via new technology
seem to be endless. But the simple fact is that they are not for the vast majority of
people, for whom the realities of class, gender, race, age and other kinds of
(embodied) positioning means that expectations and imagining will more often than
not fall way below the likelihood of fulfilment. Perhaps if we are members of
professional, intellectual, social or political elites we will not think this matters
very much; it may be that sufficient numbers of us are persuaded that because
visuality contains within it the potential for a greater degree of freedom in identity
creation and in other areas, that we will not care that the broader population lacks
such opportunities. If so we may find that social alienation is deepened in ways not
yet fully recognised.
Vision and distancing
What is it, then, about the nature of vision that leads us to believe it furnishes a
relationship to the world which it actually does not?
The question is central to our consideration of ocularcentrism and underlies the
critique of the dominance of the eye and vision-centred culture. It is a question about
knowledge but also, crucially, about intersubjective relations. It invites us to reflect
upon how it is that the manner in which our actual belonging in the world (being a
part of its materiality) is manifested as our (visual) separation from it, and how it is
that we have it as object within a horizon from which we are significantly but not
completely distant. Through vision our continuity with the world actually conceals
itself, the very place where we mistake our actual contact for distance, imagining



that seeing is actually a substitute for, rather than merely a mode of touching. Thus
are our transactions with the visual rendered unrecognisable. The problem with
distancing, then, is not only cultural, with ethical implications, but fundamentally
epistemological. The starting point for a critique of ocularcentrism which can
overcome the problem of distancing is one which is resistant to a unified, selfreflexive or panoptic viewpoint regarding vision. The philosophy of Merleau-Ponty
provides just such a critique.
In Merleau-Pontys work vision is a very different matter from its portrayal in
the classical Greek and later Cartesian philosophies: it is markedly anti-Platonic
precisely because it embraces the notion of the collaboration of vision with the other
senses, especially that of touch. Starting from the position that vision is simply
something that occurs in the world, Merleau-Ponty described how it is that we do
not merely see the world but that in a real sense the world also sees us. We are in
effect that spot of locus through which the world achieves visibility. So it is
misleading, though commonplace, to say that each of us sees the world as quite
privately our own. The views of others, together with my own, are inserted into an
entire system of necessarily partial perspectives which refer each of us to the same
world in which we coexist, and within which our views intersect. For Merleau-Ponty
this intersection demonstrates that we are two entities whose views enter into the
same being. Because we think of vision as providing us with the most
comprehensive view of the world we tend to associate it with definition and
permanent location. Yet in reality vision is a chiasm in the world a site of its
interlacing in and through itself, but a chiasm however which cannot be articulated
in strictly visual terms.44 We are the place the world sees or shows itself because
we are of the world and thus continuous with it. Such an account of situated seeing
emphasises the innate plasticity of perception and does not reduce vision to mere
ocular activity. On the contrary, it decentres the viewer, in the process arresting the
process of distancing which is the hallmark of the disinterested gaze.
So for Merleau-Ponty vision encompasses tactility it merely reveals what touch
already knows. In his commitment to making a radical break with the privilege
accorded objective thought as the basis of all genuine knowledge, he does not
subordinate the other senses to vision, nor vision to them. Rather he encompasses
vision within a comprehensive account of perception, the structuration of which
avoids reduction to the well-established disembodied and objectivist accounts of
consciousness. His work is, among other things, a powerful critique of the Cartesian
perspectivalist scopic regime. The idea of an all-seeing eye which gazes objectively
upon objects in the world accompanied a view of consciousness which was at once
disinterested, ahistorical and disembodied. The account of vision supplied by
Merleau-Ponty is carnal. Perception itself being always an embodied experience and
therefore fundamentally a matter of the senses in which events, things, encounters
are seen or heard or felt in some way. His entire works are focused on perception
and upon vision in particular, and his understanding of sight is that it is an incarnate
component of the flesh of the world. As he tells us our body is both an object



among objects and that which sees and touches them. World and self are mutually
interpenetrative, they emphasise the simultaneity and interaction of all of the senses,
not merely sight.
Central to Merleau-Pontys theorisation of vision is the concept of depth, without
which, he reminds us, there would not be a world. It is only because of depth that
visible things all the objects in the world including ourselves and others are.
Depth for Merleau-Ponty is the means things have to remain things, while not being
what one is looking at a particular moment. Depth is above all the dimension of the
simultaneous. It is because of depth that things have a flesh. Vision, no matter how
direct, does not overcome depth, rather it goes around it. Further, there is also
always that depth which I am not looking at this moment the surrounding depth of
the ubiquitous visual field that always abides for the duration of my looking at a
chosen object. So my look in no way overcomes depth but on the contrary
renegotiates it.45
For me, bodies (human and non-human) are at the very centre of the experiential
world. We choose our world through our bodies, not our disembodied minds, in
Merleau-Pontys terms, as living centres of intentionality: and that is how the
world chooses us. Further, it is the body in its totality which integrates all sensory
experience. So that in our interactions with our environment, including others, we
are engaged in whole-body interaction. Moreover our bodies and movement are in
ceaseless interaction with the environment; we are not distanced from that world in
any meaningful sense. Rather, world and subject infuse, inform, shape and reshape
each other constantly. The percept of the body and the image of the world are in
reality a single continuing existential experience there is no body distinct from its
implacement (in space) but equally there is no space unrelated to the unconscious
image of the perceiving subject. Each of us receives the world around us through
eyes, ears, nose, hands and the skin which covers all of our body, yet it is the eyes
that have been regarded as the not significant means by which we engage with the
world. Unfortunately the restriction of such engagement to the operation of the eye
only, both reduces and restricts that experience, detaching and distancing, making
that which is near appear far.
Distancing in social relations, and the problems of intersubjective encounter are
themes well explored by critics of ocularcentrism. The fundamental act of the visual
is the intersubjective encounter, an encounter of eye and gaze involving not only
humans, but all other species in the phenomenon of imprinting. But in addition to
this it also encompasses the encounter with the non-animate, situations in which
bodies are immersed and in which they engage or collaborate in myriad projects
with systems that can be both organic and non-organic. The latter renders critiques
of ocularcentrism problematic because it involves, particularly in relation to
complex technology, a rethinking of the traditional distinctions between humans and
the non-animate material of the world; this is an issue I address in the next chapter
on the nature of creatural embodiment.



The distancing process in the social relations is also raised by psychoanalytic

theory. The conception of fetishism and that of the gaze are based on the idea that
there is a profound misrecognition of what the viewer sees. This has often been
associated with the objectifications of the female by the male gaze. However
Irigaray, as feminist and psychoanalyst, does not limit her critique to the connection
of vision with male sexuality. Although she holds that the look is not as privileged in
women as in men, nonetheless she takes an anti-ocularcentric stance in her claim
that more than any other sense, the eye objectifies and masters. It sets at a distance
and maintains that distance. In our culture, the dominance of the look over smell,
taste, touch and hearing has brought about an impoverishment of bodily relations.46
So Irigarays analysis goes well beyond the critique of the gaze within a
phallocentric economy, providing a compelling critique of the functioning of a
metaphysics of presence. One of the most important points that she makes, however,
is that fetishistic viewing is not limited to the neurotic but rather is now a critical
aspect of everyday viewing. It is a feature of a culture that now ensures that
individual subjects invest heavily in visual forms.
Also writing from within a psychoanalytic framework, Teresa Brennan argues
that there has been a foundational fantasy of mastery over the world which is
integral with the rise of the ego in modernity.47 The distancing aspects of vision
occur because of the egos drive to establish itself precisely by means of detaching
itself ever more firmly from its originating environment. In modernity not only is the
subject progressively cut off from the movement of life, but a mindset arises that is
preoccupied with what the ego has created its product (no matter that such
products are themselves fantasmatic) rather than with recollecting what has
created it and what it has previously been a part of. Elaborating on this theme,
Brennan refers to the various senses which connect the subject to the world as
standing back in favour of the visual. The view that gradual hegemony of the eye
is an accompaniment of development of Western ego-consciousness in modernity is
seen by others as clear indication of the increasing separation of self from world. It
is obviously a major obstacle to the establishment of genuine intersubjective
relations. The difficulty, however, is that the healthy consciousness cannot develop
without the distancing that vision procures, while simultaneously generating those
fictions of indivisibility and boundedness that are deeply implicated in the sense of
detachment that continues to afflict the subject in late modernity. Whether altered
social arrangements encouraging different kinds of practices (including significant
educational ones) can alter this, is an issue which I will explore in later chapters.
The integration of the senses multisensorial embodiment
Psychoanalytic theory has furnished a key insight regarding body-image or bodyschema as the centre of the integration of experience by means of the action of the
whole body. This reminds us that such body-image or schema is informed at a most
basic level through haptic and orientating experiences which occur very early in the



life of an individual. Our visual images are developed later and depend for their
meaning on these primal experiences. The significance of this insight should not be
underestimated: it states that we cannot really see our world unless we have first
learned to move within it and to touch it. Our first experiences of our built and
natural environments involve a polyphony of the senses. Despite the fact that our
experiences are multidimensional and now often involve the occupying of symbolic
rather than physical space, and that both time and space have become multiple and
discontinuous, we nonetheless still encounter a world which requires the interaction
and fusing of the senses in order to be experienced. We still rely on the haptic in
fundamental ways to provide that basis upon which all later experience, no matter
how apparently visually grounded, owes its existence.
From a phenomenological point of view one of the difficulties we encounter
when trying to assess the role of vision and the denigration of the other senses is
that, as Leder points out, when we do succeed in recalling the importance of our
fleshy bodies in their multisensorial diversity, we nonetheless tend to forget them
again precisely because when they function well, we simply pass through them in
using them, whereas in seeing, we seem not to have eyes but rather to be in contact
with the world.48 But the world we are in contact with through vision is one that can
become fixed and static if we ignore the rest of the fleshy surface of the body. The
collaboration of the eye with the other senses occurs in complex ways to provide the
varieties of encounter we have in everyday life: with our whole bodies, not just our
eyes, we inhabit our places of work, community, leisure and our homes and in so
doing make our world open up to us. More profoundly, I think, it recalls for us our
basic animality, our connection with other species, and our embeddeness within
systems both animate and non-animate.
We cannot see the world unless we have learned to move in it and to touch it.
Nor do we somehow leave behind the other senses while we engage with it visually.
But our culture, like all cultures, has as one of its specific tasks that of teaching us to
see things in specific ways there are ways of seeing that are peculiar to certain
ways of life, that is, to particular social and historical discourses that both constitute
and thereafter identify the culture. A major aspect of contemporary global culture is
precisely the pre-eminence accorded the visual. Unfortunately this can have the
effect for many of limiting their experience to that which can be looked at, watched,
observed and scrutinised, forgetting or denying those memories of the body itself
which are the legacy of earlier experience, in which all of the senses have been
involved, and in which as embodied beings we had formed passionate liaisons with
things in the world. As I try to show throughout this work it is the forming of such
passionate liaisons that must also be a major aim of education. Understanding how
the eye collaborates with all of the other senses is therefore a task that educators
need to address.



Visual culture and embodiment

The notion of a dematerialised image as the centrepiece of a disembodied visual
culture which shapes the way the world is viewed, is contested by cultural analysts.
In response to critics of contemporary visual culture, the influential art historian and
literary theorist W.J.T. Mitchell, whose work was mentioned earlier, claims that in
fact there are no purely visual media, that all media are mixed, and the idea that
there exists a medium which utilises only a single sensory organ is mistaken.49 His
arguments are detailed and complex but together add up to a substantial critique of
the view that visual images are powerful tools for manipulation and control through
the imposition of scopic regimes upon unsuspecting populations. There is no
uniquely visual quality about the present era, he maintains, and media, specifically
photography or film, do not exert a hegemony of the visible. Mitchell denies that the
age of literacy and the linguistic turn has now been overtaken by a pictorial turn
which confuses the image in the domain of art with that of the wider culture, and, as
some critics of ocularcentrism seem to suggest, heralds in a new form of consciousness. While I think his comments are useful in many respects in that they encourage
a more considered approach to the study of individual forms of visual culture,
nevertheless I do regard the hegemony of the eye as exerting influence on
contemporary social relations and ways of thinking. Jay and the other critics remind
us that although the visual turn may not be legitimately depicted as wholly
negative or oppressive in its effects, there are nonetheless many disturbing aspects
which require critical consideration. The following example will illustrate what I
In 1997 Susan Sonntag published On Photography, a book about the power of
the photographic image. Later she returned to her theme in a work titled Regarding
the Pain of Others, in which once again she emphasises the paradoxical nature of the
photograph, especially when it captures moments of terror, agony and the often
violent death of individuals and groups. The book is a meditation on the acts of
looking but is also an exploration of the implications of that looking. Specifically it
throws into question the claims of the camera to provide an unmediated witness to
the real, to truth. Her analysis includes incidents captured on film from the
American Civil War, the Indian Mutiny, the Spanish Civil War, the Balkans and
Vietnam. At the heart of Sonntags deliberations is the question of the power of
images. We are presented with the problem of the photographic images capacity to
inspire in us powerful feelings of empathy and compassion on the one hand but on
the other to engender a prurient curiosity that approaches the pornographic. What
underlies Sonntags examination is, I think, a deep fear of the manner in which a
strictly visual medium (and a fixed one at that) fails to convey the flesh-and-blood
nature of the suffering individual, the fullness of embodied existence under dire



The endless circulation of the photographic image and that on film (note
the repetition of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New
York) can actually bring about a loss of meaning in viewers, it has been argued by
many critics, Sonntag included. In part this arises because of the general passivity on
the part of viewers, most often seated around their television sets the archetypal
consumers of images. But while in her earlier work Sonntag had expressed some
faith in the power of images to enlighten, she now focuses on the capacity to numb
sensibilities, indeed to convert images into fetishes. So while she acknowledges the
value of photographs to help us remember, she draws a distinction between the
remembering of atrocities and of understanding. The latter is a much more subtle
and complex matter requiring the techniques of narrative which allow the fleshing
out of context and details of time, place and specifics of social organisation and
issues of power and control. Of course this too may lead to the institutionalisation of
such images, the foregrounding of some sets of images (the history of slavery in
America), while at the same time the censoring of others (American military activity
in Vietnam). The point here is that images are open to manipulation, to censoring for
both commercial (television stations censoring the news) and political reasons, for
example the control of images by military authorities. Nowadays, of course,
computer imaging means that it is not only possible to alter photographs but to
create pictures that are entirely fake without the viewer being any the wiser.
Sonntags insights are important not least because they explore the issue of how
a mentality of the visual can lead us to regard the whole world as a potential set of
photographs, such that reality can seem more and more to be that which we can be
shown by the camera. What we do and how we think about ourselves and others can
be influenced by those omnipresent photographic or filmic images. Sonntag is
concerned that by filling an already crowded world with an endless stream of images
we are leading people to think that the world is more available to each and every
person than it actually is.50 Little wonder, then, that many individuals come to
believe that indeed they can have everything they wish and that they may make
themselves with relative ease into a copy of the image they see in advertising, in
television dramas and the like. What can become submerged, of course, are real
embodied selves with all of their imperfections, and their placement in the
multiplicity of contexts in which they live their lives. What also may be hidden is
the understanding of the interplay of the senses within the individual and in the
interactions between and among groups of people as they engage in social practice.
The fact of individual embodiment can be problematic, not only in a visually
dominated culture, but for an age in which the notion of having a body overshadows
that of being one in the sense of being a productive creature engaged in transforming
the material bodies around it. Although the body is that where each of us lives and
will eventually die, it is very easy to think of it as merely the terrain for selftransformation under conditions of postmodernity. Attempts to align external
appearance with interior perception take many forms, and not surprisingly are
shaped by the demands of fashion and social class, and also by the dominant ideals



of youthfulness and sexual attractiveness. The body which alters through ageing or
illness is not to be pitied it has betrayed its owner and is deserving of censure. If
it cannot be renovated, then it should be seen in public as little as possible! It is not
surprising that people will wish to escape the body either through diet, surgery, or
various forms of addiction. The preoccupation with how ones body looks is
widespread, particularly among the young. The following brief examples illustrate
the point: A sixteen-year-old female respondent in a research project on the theme of
identity and self remarks during an interview, Im happy with myself cos I know I
have a good body. An adolescent boy commits suicide after receiving repeated text
messages from classmates about his facial features.51 I hate wearing these (gym
shorts). I look awful and I know theyre laughing at me says a girl in junior high
school. The tyranny of the beautiful body myth can weigh heavily on vulnerable
Multisensorial experience and embodied knowing
Human beings are embodied centres through which space and time is known. This
can be demonstrated through my short fictional description of an embodied
encounter with a familiar space:
At the beginning of the new school term the child encounters the school building.
Stepping through the entrance she turns into a hallway. Her legs mark out the length of
the passageway leading into the classroom, while one hand traces out the familiar
friezes that decorate the walls. Her gaze projects her body to the lockers and to the far
end of the passage. As she arrives at the classroom door her body encounters the solid,
fleshy mass that is her best friend. For a moment their arms intertwine in a greeting and
together they enter to sit at adjacent desks. Each experiences herself in the school
building and then within the classroom and the classroom exists only through their
embodied experience. The classroom and the bodies define each other: the world that is
the classroom is reflected in the bodies and the bodies are projected on the world.

What this description illustrates is that in living our lives we establish places
around which we orientate our world and our spatial activities. Such centres confer
what the phenomenologist Edward Casey calls a placial identity.52 In the example,
they show how the child is implaced within the specific environment of the school
at a particular moment. She is at present in the school but later she will be at home
or in the park on the sporting field and so on. In each case she is not merely present
in terms of simply seeing what is around her, but belongs to and is, in a sense,
inside the place (Caseys implacement). But it is her own embodiment that creates
the place where she is at any given time. The significant point is that genuine
implacement is always a multisensorial experience, that polyphonic interplay of the
senses which attends each and every encounter with the world. Both Merleau-Ponty
and Heidegger had in mind this collaborative character of sense interactions in their
respective descriptions of the individuals encounter with the world-at-hand. All
sense modalities are engaged but they may remain unacknowledged because of the
demands of sight.



According to Merleau-Ponty our bodies are wherever there is something to be

done.53 Since sensory experience is always unstable it is through the body in its
totality and all at once, that the world is made accessible to us. But it is always the
body itself that furnishes those sensations which constitute our experience of the
world. In traditional cognitivist theories of perception (which in the recent past have
had a major influence on theories of learning) it is viewed as a mode of knowing,
hence the intense focus on how perception opens the gateway to knowledge. As I
have tried to show throughout this chapter, culturally there has been a strong bias in
favour of vision as the primary source of knowledge. But in Merleau-Pontys
account of perception there is the sense of a process both pre-conscious and
therefore pre-objective which, unfolding automatically in dialectical fashion, is a
flowing between body-subjects and their world. This contact is foundational to all
other modes of encounter. The major point for the present discussion is that it is only
by means of the body that the different sensory experiences (touch, taste, smell) are
integrated. In other words it takes a body to effect such integration; the body itself is
only constituted through such sensory integration. Merleau-Pontys remarkable
account of intertwining of touch and vision presented most strikingly in The Visible
and the Invisible effectively demolishes the notion that perception involves mere
Merleau-Pontys relating of vision to touch was not the first but it is perhaps the
most extensive and I believe the most enlightening because it shows in effect how it
is that the eye collaborates with the other senses. It is in fact this interaction of all
the senses that is central to his account of embodied existence. Using his concept of
reversibility as translation in The Visible and the Invisible he is able to demonstrate
how it is that reversibility applies to the overlapping and intertwining of touch and
sight. My sight can tell me that a surface will be smooth or grooved to my touch and
I am able to determine texture with my sight. Likewise I know that the glare of the
sun through the windscreen of my car is the source of discomfort to my eyes. So the
visual and the tactile intertwine. For Merleau-Ponty it is a matter of our habituating
ourselves to thinking of the two as always overlapping, not merely between touched
and touching, but also between the tangible and the visible which is encrusted in it,
just as, conversely, the tangible itself is not a nothingness of visibility; that is, it is
not without its own visual existence. He presents a collaboration of the two senses
rather than an identification of the two, for however close the intertwining, they are
not the same they do not coincide. Indeed in our embodied encounters with the
world, we can often be intensely aware of the collaboration of our various senses,
such that our sense of encountering the real and indeed of being alive is enhanced
and strengthened.
As Palasmaa reminds us the senses are specialisations of the skin: all of the
senses, including vision, can be regarded as extensions of the sense of touch. The
eye itself touches through the gaze and the glance: all the critics of ocularcentrism
implicitly acknowledge this in their respective critiques of the aggression of the eye.
But some place the sense of touch prior to that of sight on the grounds that it is



the only sense which can provide a sense of spatial depth. James Gibson replaces the
conventional view of the senses as distinctive and separate with the notion of
five sensory systems, but insists on the priority of the haptic in human knowing. In
so doing he accords hands and fingers particular pride of place. Vision can only
know what touch has already discovered, yet touch can so easily be forgotten in a
culture of the visual. Palasmaa suggests that in fact touch might be regarded as the
unconscious of vision.54 Yet it is in the greatest of visual art that tactility receives its
fullest recognition: for Merleau-Ponty the genius of a painter such as Czanne lay
precisely in his ability to portray depth, the smoothness or hardness of objects in
other words, things in their wholeness, their unsurpassable plenitude.
The account of vision which critics of ocularcentrism find repellent is a
monocular kind, delivering a flattened vision of a (disembodied) transcendental
subject, and a distanced and distancing autonomous ego. But the kind of carnal
vision that Merleau-Ponty had in mind arises out of the very nature of the body
subject itself, and is essentially stereoscopic vision, in effect vision requiring the
assistance of touch for the apprehension of materiality. Touch already knows what
vision thereafter reveals; it simultaneously clarifies and supplements that which is
revealed through sight. Ours is a three-dimensional world and it is the vision touch
connection that most forcefully reminds us of this. While the eye distances us from
the world, touch connects us providing both intimacy and emotion, however much
we may choose to ignore this. While the eye fixes and investigates, touch advances
and embraces. The intertwining of sight and touch which Merleau-Ponty describes
so compellingly is to be seen in the non-human world in the way, for example, that
primates locate objects in space by deploying eyesight and touch. In the above
description of the child entering the school building, the experience is as much about
touch as it is vision it is about a set of bodily behaviours and movements that, as
memory and habit, can no longer be said to rely on firstly seeing and then moving,
but rather in which vision touch and the other sense systems are brought into
complex interplay.
As Martin Jay demonstrates, there is quite a remarkable number of terms and
expressions that describe our relationship with the world by means of sight.55 But
there are also a great many which draw attention to the centrality of touch in human
experience. There are extremely powerful metaphors of the tactile: we speak of
individuals who are prickly, colleagues who are thin-skinned, ticklish situations
which require delicate handling, abrasive personalities, acquaintances who are
smooth or slick operators. Lawyers refers to tangible evidence in a criminal
case, we speak of being in touch with family, losing touch with childhood
friends, of being out of touch with fashion or the real world, of being touched by
the kind gesture of a neighbour and of touching upon a sensitive issue. We talk of
smoothing over the cracks, soothing jangled nerves and massaging egos. It
seems that despite its submersion within the more prominent vision-centred
discourses, our everyday awareness of the tactile is maintained at some level.



Sight and sound, vision and the aural are interwoven in everyday experience but
the acoustic generally remains as a background accompaniment to the visual and
tactile. Yet the power of sound to move us can be enormous. The first raindrops on
leaves after days of heatwave, the rushing of wind through open windows before a
storm hits, the contractions of a metal roof as the temperature rapidly decreases, and
the frantic twittering of birds as they brace for the coming tempest all remind us of
the importance of hearing in placial experience. They are a basic feature of being in
place as embodied beings. But whereas sight isolates and distances, sound incorporates.
While vision takes us in a specific direction reaching towards an object, sound
envelopes, receives. Heideggers critique of ocularcentrism included centrally a
strong defence of voice and of hearing. The issue of the ear rather than the eye as the
surest route to knowledge had been explored in the nineteenth century when
Helmholtz and others had not only raised it to prominence among the senses, but
had also attempted to find an equivalence between the visible and the auditory.
Sound waves and light waves, it was thought, suggested a possible intertwining of
vision and sound. In the literary realm both George Eliot and Thomas Hardy
imagined eternity in terms of sound, the former referring to the choir invisible in
what Beer refers to as a harmonious acoustic eternity.56 Palasmaas notion of the
acoustic intimacy is furnished by the best kind of architecture, that is buildings
which are good listeners.57
In terms of individual human development, the auditory is the first sense
available: infants in utero react to both sound and touch and it is likely that auditory
perception leads to a babys initial realisation that there is something beyond itself to
which it is nevertheless related in a fundamental way. Mother and child are united
by an umbilical chord of sound. After birth vocal interchange between mother and
infant persists, strengthening mutual attachment. Kristeva writes of the chora which
underlies the logos of speech and language harking back to this understanding of the
auditory, the aural as foundational to human experience.58 The chora concerns the
rhythm, pitch and timbre of human voices and is best identified by Kristeva as a
kind of basic musicality. Such an element remains in certain kinds of poetry and in
the prose of such writers as James Joyce. But this basic musicality can so easily be
absorbed by the demands of the eye and the hegemony exercise by the visual.
Sound is framed in many cultures as music, and as such has its own
disciplinary positioning and status. For Nietzsche, music was not just a pastime, a
mere transient pleasure, but rather one of the elements that made living possible.
The significance he attributed to music makes him closer to the Greeks, to Plato,
than to many modern thinkers. In his depiction of the Apollonian and the Dionysian
he placed music with the latter, believing that music somehow reconciles us with the
horror of existence. If, as he believed, the philosophical tradition itself was actually
a misunderstanding of the body, then the arts and music particularly could begin
the process of recovery. In The Gay Science he wrote:
And so I ask myself: What is it my body expects of music? I believe, its own ease: as if
all animal functions should be quickened by bold, exuberant, self-assured rhythms; as if



iron, leaden life should be guided by good golden and tender harmonies. My
melancholy wants to rest in the hiding places and abysses of perfection; that is why I
need music.59

He might also have added that musics basic processes are located in the
constitution of the body as well as in the patterns of interaction of bodies implaced
in their societies.
The olfactory is the most underrated sense and probably the most difficult to
appreciate, according to Lyall Watson who refers to it as the Cinderella of the
senses.60 It is also the one which in a visual culture, cannot be represented other than
in visual means. On screen a character in a drama grimaces, covers his nose with his
fingers and turns away to indicate an unpleasant or disturbing odour. A powerful
message is conveyed about the extent to which we are affected by particular odours.
Yet as Diane Ackerman points out in her remarkable history of the senses, smell is
the mute sense the one without words.61 We lack a vocabulary for talking about
our olfactory experience, which is no doubt one of the reasons why smell figures so
rarely in education. In many of our sanitised and deodorised homes and workplaces,
to raise olfactory matters risks disapproval if not downright censure (of course there
are places in which we are permitted to indulge our noses as when buying flowers or
in restaurants). But smell is there for us with every breath we cannot block out that
particular kind of sensory input as we can for example, stop seeing by closing our
eyes, or cease hearing by inserting earplugs. We can probably, however, minimise
our experience of smell by our uses of visual technologies.
A renewed recognition of the intertwining of the senses reminds us that in
making a life we never cease to draw upon the wisdom that is stored in the body.
Remembered by the body are certain corporeal practices, tasks carried out engaging
all of the senses, things done to form bodily habits that are nevertheless much more
than mere bodily habits. These remain, despite our frequent disavowals, residing in
the postmodern bodies of the present, passionate liaisons as Bachelard described
them, linking individuals with the primordial experiences of previous generations.62
Such experiences have to do with a sense of attachment, of belonging, of various
kinds of achievement, and they will always involve the senses and their intertwining
in complex ways. So we touch, smell, listen to and look at the world, using our
whole bodies not merely in a sensually compartmentalised mode. To say that
fundamentally we are our senses will no doubt deeply offend many who believe that
the mind only develops when one has overcome the demands of the senses. And it
will possibly trouble those who wish to deny that what we have in common with
other species are our senses in all of their complex interactions. But we can think of
what we have called human intelligence as a distillation of our senses, and all the
knowledge we have amassed and indeed the new knowledge we are in the process of
generating must also have roots in the senses. Even the most apparently abstract and
representational must have this grounding, I believe. To remind ourselves of this
rescues us from descent into a narcissism of the eye.



Multisensorial education
The resource par excellence in many societies now is information, and information
has a central place in education. It is conveyed through technologies that did not
exist even a few years ago. The main currency of many of these is the image and it
is that which, as I have tried to show in my previous discussions, alters our
perception of distance, of relative size and proximity. Students seated in front of
computers in a classroom can now engage in forms of symbolic communication
which are at the same time forms of perceptual contraction. Such contraction
necessarily involves the disappearance of an earlier sense of the physical dimension
of objects large and small in space, and a sense of the distance to be covered in
moving them around as well as the time involved. In other words, the space of the
Internet (which is now no less real than that of physical space) can now only be dealt
with adequately by one of the senses. It is only the eye and vision which can keep
pace with the speed that now characterises the symbolic. But the resulting flattened
world of the present does not seem like that to those who participate in it. On the
contrary, it seems to provide remarkable opportunities for multidimensional
experiences involving great flexibility of movement, the making and remaking of
identities and the assimilation of methods not so much concerned with learning this
or that body of knowledge or curriculum material but with learning how to learn.
This, according to Alberto Melucci, cultural sociologist and psychologist, consists of
learning how to control our cognitive processes and motivations and to apply them
to new problems.63 The exercise of technological skill has led to an explosion of
symbolic possibilities which, whatever else they may involve (and Im not sure
that at this time we know what the limits will be), entail the construction of a world
of self-created images which we then inhabit so that, in Meluccis words, in reality
or in the imagination we participate in an infinity of worlds. Part of this very
process of world-making involves ordering and separating the senses.
Today young people undergoing education at various life-stages are part of a
visualised culture in which the disembodied image and the embodied human being
are permanent elements in a dialectical relation. Very young children are less firmly
anchored in this visual culture and have yet to enter the universe of image
construction. But even that is changing as technology reaches more surely into
schooling, and homes (at least of middle-class children) keep pace with the cultural
imperative to plug-in to a visualising world. In the secondary and higher education
sectors it is a different matter; there, embodied students may have experience of a
wide variety of visual technologies, of visual events in which information is sought
but where also meaning and pleasure are pursued and consumed. Technology
transmits and receives quantities of information that individuals must now devote
unprecedented amounts of time to receiving, analysing, storing appropriately and
responding to. In the process individuals develop the capacity to both produce and
define the meaning of what they do. Situated at a point at which circuits of
information intersect, it is likely that at least some individuals are at risk of being



overwhelmed by the images, of becoming detached from multisensorial engagement

and, ultimately, from emotional, involvement with others.
If as I suggested earlier in this chapter, visuality has been associated with truth,
certain knowledge and the privileging of a specific account of the mind, then it has
also been caught up with another imbalance in the Western intellectual tradition: the
privileging of ideas (theories) over practice. The visually oriented concept of theoria
that accompanies the so-called Apollonian impulse in Greek philosophy has been
the object of critique by such as Nietzsche and Heidegger but also notably by John
Dewey, especially in relation to education. His critique of abstract theoretical
knowledge, especially in schooling, focused as Nietzsches and Merleau-Pontys
and others had done on the theory/practice dichotomy. There remain subject areas
of the curriculum in schools which are highly problematic in terms of their degree of
abstraction. As such they reinforce not just the distancing from the world, but
also further a sense that knowledge itself is a package for the consumption
of educational clients. Unfortunately, despite innovations in pedagogy and new
approaches in curriculum, there remains a strong tendency to impose upon students
sedimented and disembodied curricula. While the early school years may avoid this,
the later years too often must yield to the demands for uniformity of content and the
so-called rigour demanded by syllabus designers.
What is often neglected in this view of education is an understanding of the
function of language. Philosophies, social, political and educational theories and
analysis, and the curriculum in schools and institutions of higher education do not
exist merely in institutions, libraries, in commercial or political applications. Like
the languages in which they are written (both ancient and modern) and spoken, they
live to greater or lesser degrees through embodied individuals in speakers and
writers embodied practice and discourse. It is this understanding of the embodied
character of thinking and language which has become submerged in recent times,
contributing among other things to the continuing theory/practice dichotomy that
bedevils education, the workplace and social life generally. What we say and do find
their origin and continued existence in the bodies that go to make up our
communities and the wider culture. Unfortunately, because of the dominant ways of
thinking about the curriculum and educational practice we continue to place ideas,
concepts, theories in a category separate from our actual daily practices.
Hence we may come to think that our theories (be they philosophical, scientific,
literary or anything else) have a life of their own, which in many ways we see as
more important than the bodies upon which such theories have been inscribed. Such
a way of thinking about our inherited understandings of the world is often underlain
(albeit perhaps quite unconsciously) by the view that language is somehow external
to thought. For Merleau-Ponty, it is bodies that have inherited the language, and
therefore the concepts, metaphors, claims which we identify as constituting
particular theories and propositions that these bodies continually shape and modify
in the endless process of sharing with others. And while individuals may believe that
the theories and the language in which they are expressed have the status of time-



honored truth irrespective of who takes them up and when, the reality is that the
theories and the language only have their life in those embodied speakers and
writers; and their circumstance are always culturally specific and anchored in a
particular time and place.
To assist in overcoming the still influential view of knowledge as disembodied,
an embodied and multisensorial approach needs to be taken to the curriculum and to
pedagogy. Opportunities for the active exploration of the tactile within the school
curriculum can take many forms, and these do not have to be merely confined to
specific subject areas such as the arts. For example, in two Sydney suburban schools
rhythm has become the fourth R when, in an experimental arts-based program,
mathematics, specifically geometric concepts, are taught in a very different way. By
dancing through angles and using music to work with fractions, children can
address what are basically musical problems of a mathematical kind. Important
sections of the science curriculum lend themselves to the use of body movement;
and forms of environmental education allow the interaction of all sense modalities,
not just the processing and memorisation of information presented in books or even
through the use of interactive computing programs. The time space dynamic must
be experienced in a fully embodied fashion, not merely simulated.
Education about the built environment has, I think, a most specific and often
quite underrated part to play in assisting students to develop sensory intimacy with
their world, counteracting the tendency to de-sensualise and commodify human
relationships with the environment, natural and cultural. Opportunities for the
exploration of architecture, both public and private, are of importance in education,
offering, if handled well, a heightened sense of awareness of the body, its skin and
muscularity, a sense of the continuity of time and an appreciation of the realities and
possibilities of matter and craft. Such explorations serve not only as a reminder of
the embodied life but may also act as an antidote to the sanitisation of the world
which can occur through scopic regimes. In a culture which is dominated on the one
hand by the abstractions of theory and on the other by the reifications of the image,
there is, it seems to me, a deep need to recover the situational bodily encounter with
nature and with built environments. Experiencing and reflecting critically
upon varieties of architectural construction involves whole body responses and
exemplifies the incorporation of both physical and mental structures and processes.
Increasingly, curricula in the secondary and post-secondary arenas are predicated
on the notions of looking and seeing. There is a continuously shifting clustering of
contemporary visual media utilised in classrooms. These include film, television,
photography, art, video, and perhaps most significant, computer-generated media.
They have infused the curriculum with visual events (an interaction involving the
visual sign, and the technology that enables and sustains that sign, and the viewer)
which are currently regarded as indispensable to some subject areas in the secondary
curriculum. The interpretation of visual images has come to be an important part of
specific curricula, including the older areas of history and social sciences. Visual
literacy is a major focus. Implicit in this is the transcendence of actual physical



space and the specificities of environment and, not surprisingly, a shift to ways of
knowing what can be delivered by means of the technology. While there are obvious
benefits in the use of the Internet and in online exchanges as a part of education,
there remain more profound considerations about the role played by visual images
and visual culture as a kind of go-between in social transactions, as repertoires of
templates that can structure our encounters with other human beings and as a
means of confining and shaping corporeal subjectivity to a life lived onscreen. What
a life lived predominantly in a visualised world means for embodiment has yet to be
determined, but it is a matter that I think invites our attention as educators and as
educational analysts.
1. For a comprehensive overview of the key issues regarding visual culture, the rise of the pictorial and
its relation to the linguistic or discursive see Vision in Context: Reflections and Refractions,
Introduction by Martin Jay to the collection Vision in Context: Historical and Contemporary
Perspectives on Sight, edited Teresa Brennan and Martin Jay. New York: Routledge 1996.
2. The crucial distinction between vision as perceptual experience that each of us has by virtue of our
physiology and that of vision as cultural trope is made by Martin Jay in his influential work Downcast
Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth Century French Thought. Berkeley and Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1994. See Introduction, Chapter 1 and Conclusion.
3. See Mirzoeffs An Introduction to Visual Culture. London: Routledge 1999, Introduction What is
Visual Culture, p. 1.
4. Bal, Mieke, Visual Essentialism and the Object of Visual Culture, Journal of Visual Culture, 2(1),
pp 5-32.
5. Van Winkel, quoted in Bal, op.cit., pp 5-32.
6. Anti-ocularcentrist philosophers include Sartre, Bataille, Bergson, Althusser, Debord, Derrida,
Levinas, Certeau and Irigaray. There are also critics of various aspects of ocularcentrism among
theorists and critics of visual culture such as Bal and Mirzoeff.
7. Nietzsches critique is located in a number of his works including The Genealogy of Morals, Beyond
Good and Evil and The Gay Science. Heidegger deals with the ocularcentric and its philosophical
origins in The Origin of the Work of Art, in the essay The Age of the World Picture in The Question
Concerning Technology and Other Essays, 1938, p. 134.
8. There are many works dealing with the implications of Cartesian philosophy and in particular with
perspectivalism. Sources on Descartes own work, which I have drawn upon, include the following:
Descartes, Ren, Philosophical Letters, translated and edited by Anthony Kenny Minneapolis.
University of Minnesota Press; The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, translated by John
Cotteringham, Robert Stoothof and Dugald Murdoch. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
9. See Chapter I, The Ecstatic Body in Leder, Drew, The Absent Body. Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press, 1990, pp 18-20.
10. See Peter Sloterdijks Critique of Cynical Reason, translated by Michael Eldred. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1987, p. 145.



11. For an incisive analysis of the role and functioning of light in relation to knowledge see Cathryn
Vasseleus Textures of Light: Vision and Touch in Irigaray, Levinas and Merleau-Ponty. London:
Routledge, 1998.
12. Differing views are to be found on this. For example Walter Ong claimed in his work Orality &
Literacy that historically the move from oral to written cultures was basically a shift from sound to
visual space, the notion of space that has become dominant in Western culture and print replaced the
lingering hearing-dominance in the world of thought and expression which had its beginnings in
writing. Hearing dominance has yielded to sight-dominance, bringing about a fundamental change
in perception and understanding of the world. But in at least one analysts opinion the hegemony of
the eye may actually be much more closely connected with the rise of science and the increasing
emphasis on organising, classification and ordering which constitutes its methods. The hierarchy of
the senses in sixteenth century European culture indicates that hearing and touch outranked sight in
importance, according to others.
13. For a useful overview see Palasmaa, Juhani, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses.
London: Academy Editions, 1996, pp 14-16.
14. The discovery of Renaissance perspective is attributed to the painter Leon Battista Alberti. For a
succinct account of his innovation and its significance see Crosby, Albert W, The Measure of Reality:
Quantification and Western Society 1250 1600. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997,
Chapter 9 Painting, pp 165-196.
15. One of the most thoroughgoing, yet relatively brief accounts of Descartes error is to be found in
Leder, op. cit., pp 128-148.
16. See Parker, Andrew, In the blink of an eye: the cause of the most dramatic event in the history of life.
London: The Free Press, 2003.
17. See Catalano, Joseph F., Thinking Matter: Consciousness from Aristotle to Putnam & Sartre. New
York & London: Routledge, 2000.
19. In a very important work Daniel Dennett and colleagues challenge the established view that there
exists a rich phenomenal world for individuals and consciousness occurs as a stream, that is, as
continuous. Although vision is a rich experience, its richness does not necessarily arise in the way we
tend to take for granted. The arguments that we see the world as it is, are contested in light of
evidence from empirical work in perceptual psychology. See Noe, Alva, Is the Visual World a Grand
Illusion? Thorverton UK: Imprint Academic, 2002.
20. See Mirzoeff, op. cit., p. 1.
21. Ibid. p. 1.
22. Sartres account of the mortifying gaze and his general hostility to vision is unremitting.
23. Mitchells position is fully elaborated in Mitchell, W.J.T. (2003) Showing Seeing: A Critique of
Visual Culture. Journal of Visual Culture, 1(3) August, pp 165-183.
24. Levins position is most comprehensively put in Levin, David Michael, Modernity and the Hegemony
of Vision. Berkeley and Los Angeles:University of California Press, 1993; and in his earlier work The
Opening of Vision Nihilism and the Postmodern Situation. New York and London: Routledge, 1998.
25. See Classen, Constance, Engendering Perception: Gender Ideologies and Sensory Hierarchies in
Western History, in Body and Society, 3(2), June 1997, pp 1-18.
26. Irvins, William N. Jr, On the Rationalisation of Sight (1938) quoted in Crosby op. cit., p. 127.
27. See Huizinga, Johan, The Waning of the Middle Ages. New York: Doubleday, 1954, p. 284.
28. Nietzsche opposed the idea that we are somehow more than nature and that our knowing is therefore
something beyond the capacities of our embodied being.



29. For Rolls the total capacity refers to the operation of the senses, which are the expression of our lifeaffirming instincts. See Rolls, Eric, Celebration of the Senses. St.Lucia Queensland: The University of
Queensland Press, 4th edition, 1998.
30. I have not explored Bergsons views on embodiment here but recognise the importance of his work
with respect to the body and to sociality in particular. As Elizabeth Grosz makes clear in her most
recent work, Merleau-Pontys acknowledged the profound influence of Bergson in grasping the
manner in which bodies are positioned in the world. Grosz sees both as sharing an ontology of
becoming. See Grosz, Elizabeth, In the Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution and the Untimely. Sydney:
Allen and Unwin, 2004, Notes p. 280.
31. See Heidegger, Martin, The Age of the World Picture, in The Questions Concerning Technology
and Other Essays. New York: Harper and Row, 1977.
32. See Corradi Fiumara, Gemma, The Other Side of Language. Philosophy of Listening. London and
New York: Routledge, 1990.
33. The psychologist J.J. Gibson, whose work is discussed in later chapters, encapsulated the five senses
as system. These are visual, auditory, taste-smell, the basic orienting system and the haptic system.
34. See Irigarays Amante Marine (Marine Lover) 1981, quoted in Jay op. cit., p. 527 n. See also
Whitford, Margaret, Luce Irigaray: Philosophy in the Feminine. London: Routledge, 1991, p. 55.
35. Palasmaa, op. cit., pp 6-25.
36. Jameson holds that in an ocularcentric culture we cannot but look at the world as if it were a naked
body. See his Signatures of the Visible. New York: Routledge, 1992.
37 Edward Caseys account of place and human implacement are presented in his monumental works
Getting Back into Place. Towards a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1993; and, The Fate of Place. A Philosophical History. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1997.
38. See Rolls, op. cit., p. 251.
39. For a discussion of this more fully, see Mirzoeff, op. cit., Introduction, pp 1-33.
40. See Baudrillard, Jean, The Procession of Simulacra in Wallis, Brian (ed), Art After Modernism:
Rethinking Representation. New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art 1984. Also Baudrillard,
Jean, Simulacra and Simulations in Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster. Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1988.
41. See Mirzoeff, op. cit., Chapter 3, From Virtual Antiquity to the Pixel Zone, pp 96-99.
42. Ibid. p. 108. Mirzoeff notes that the Playboy site remains extraordinarily popular while sex is the
most sought-after term on the Yahoo search engine.
43. Bentley, Peter J., Digital Biology: How Nature Is Transforming our Technology. London: Headline
Book Publishing, 2001, Introduction, p. 2.
44. For an excellent summary of what lies at the heart of Merleau-Pontys account of vision, see Stephen
Melvilles Division of the Gaze, or Remarks on the Color and Tenor of Contemporary Theory, in
Brennan and Jay, op. cit., pp 108-109.
45. In Merleau-Pontys flesh ontology as (incompletely) described in The Visible and the Invisible, depth
is the hidden dimension of dimensions. It is behind everything, even the flesh. Depth is the means
things have to remain things while not being what I am looking at, at the moment. The theme of the
flesh in Merleau-Pontys work is taken up in subsequent chapters.
46. See Cathryn Vasseleus brief discussion of Irigarays claim regarding the downgrading of the other
senses in Illuminating Passion: Irigarays Transfiguration of Night in Brennan and Jay, op. cit., pp



47. The account of the formation of the Western ego in modernity is a central theme in Brennan, Teresa,
History After Lacan. London: Routledge, 1993.
48. Leder, op. cit., Chapters 3-5.
49. This is one of the key points made by Mitchell in his refutation of many of the claims of
ocularcentrists. See Mitchell W.J.T Seeing Showing: A Critique of Visual Culture, Journal of Visual
Culture, 1(3) August, pp 65-183.
50. Similar points are made about the rain fall of images by Italo Calvino in Six Memos for the Next
Millenium. New York: Vintage Books, 1993. Sonntags criticism also resonate with those of Levin.
51. The case of a boy who had been harassed by other adolescents because of particular facial condition
from which he suffered was reported in the New Zealand press in November 2003. His peers had used
texting to convey derisory and abusive messages.
52. I explore Caseys notion of placial identity in Chapters 3 and 4 and specifically in relation to
citizenship in Chapter 5.
53. See Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge, 1992, p. 203.
54. Palasmaa, op. cit., p. 29.
55. Jay, op. cit., Introduction, p. 1.
56. See Gillian Beers Authentic Tidings of Invisible Things: Vision and the Invisible in the Later
Nineteenth Century in Brennan and Jay, op. cit., pp 84-98.
57. Palasmaa, op. cit., p. 34.
58. See Kristeva, Julia, Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, translated by
Thomas Gora, Alice Jardine and Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.
59. Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Gay Science, Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books,
1974, p. 23.
60. See Watson, Lyall, Jacobsons Organ and the Remarkable Nature of Smell. London: Allen Lane-The
Penguin Press, 1998.
61. See Ackerman, Diane, A Natural History of the Senses. London: Phoenix, 1996.
62. The notion of passionate attachment is integral to Bachelards notion of phenomenological place,
which has, in my view, strong links to Caseys account of place and the idea that humans are
implaced wherever they are engaged with the world. See Bachelard, Gaston, The Poetics of Space.
translated by Maria Jolas. With a new Foreword by John R. Stilgoe Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.
63. See Melucci, Alberto, The Playing Self. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, Epilogue, pp


In the ongoing search for bodily perfection, it seems there are ever-increasing
expectations of bodies, their presentation and performance being constantly
appraised in the public sphere by others, but also by ourselves. Determining how
one measures up corporeally is a major preoccupation of significant sections of the
population. The quest for the perfect body continues apace, at least among many of
the inhabitants of rich countries whose decisions about whether or not to engage in
various forms of bodily enhancement is in stark contrast to the images of people
almost literally dying on camera in other places. Constant evaluation of ones bodys
performance is a major preoccupation in the quest for new identities. Such scrutiny
clearly involves a kind of body-objectification, which is perhaps rather odd since in
everyday life people do not normally experience their bodies as objects. The
intensity of present expectations points to a widespread view that bodies have a duty
to serve their owners and, indeed, to serve them very well. Awareness of this aspect
of embodiment may take the form of annoyance or disappointment when they
apparently fail to live up to an owners expectations. Owners of course are also
expected to show embarrassment, even deep shame, over their socially unacceptable
bodies examples being ageing, fat or misshapen bodies.
In fact such an attitude towards our bodies is not entirely new, though in earlier
times the notion of the failure of the body was most often associated with loss of
strength and flexibility, and the decline of skills that accompanied ageing; or it was
seen in terms of those forms of bodily impairment arising from illness or injury.
There were also strong religious associations and the body carried a rich set of
symbols reflecting notions of the weakness of the flesh and the bodys subordination
to the soul. In the major monotheistic religions womens bodies in particular carried
meanings associated not only with lesser strength but also with deficiencies in
rationality, and with corruption and sin. In contemporary forms of religious
fundamentalism many of these associations have received renewed attention.
Meanwhile in the wider society, notions of performance have accompanied our
understanding of fluctuations and decrease in sexual potency. At the present time
expectations of sexual performance are mediated by influential gendered discourses
whose function in large part is to normalise ideas about desire and the sexual body
and to uphold certain social arrangements, but also to assure the individual that his
or her body can perform to present expectations.
We expect, for example, that bodies will perform adequately in terms of
providing means of economic sustenance earning us a living but will also fulfil
the function of effecting social acceptance in various contexts. While attracting
potential sexual partners or future spouses, bodies must also present in appropriate
ways for family members, employers, colleagues, peers and an ever-increasing circle



of others who will confer status upon them. Surprisingly then, in an age in which
mind body dualisms have been discredited, there remains a sense of a body
charged with carrying out its assigned performance at the direction of a mind which,
though obviously connected corporeally to it, nevertheless in some sense transcends
it. So it appears that a rather rationalistic notion of mind is retained despite the fact
that some contemporary accounts of lived bodies (as distinct from those externally
inscribed by social norms) emphasise the minds intentional attachment to its body.
Such views seem to me to sit comfortably with earlier religious notions of the
inherent weakness and inferiority of the body, except that now the body presents
itself mutely for inscription by discourses which simultaneously deepen selfsurveillance while rendering it ever more passive.
In the first section of this chapter, I explore those elements of a kind of quasirationalist conception of mind that in my view continues to underpin much
educational thinking and practice. Their significance for my discussion of
embodiment is that they reinforce in varying degrees the older dualisms of mind
body, nature culture and subject (humans) / object (the world) as well as variants
of the theory/practice dichotomy.
As I have indicated in the Introduction, there are important philosophical
resources available for understanding the notion of creatural existence. These resources
are both historical and contemporary and range from the phenomenological through
varieties of pragmatism and feminist critique. But philosophical work, even the most
recent, can only go so far; there are other enterprises beyond the philosophical,
notably in the biological sciences, neuroscience and other fields, which I consider
crucial to the task. While I can claim no expertise in the latter, it appears to me that
the philosophers upon whom I draw in this work, in particular those writing in the
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, had a keen appreciation of the natural
sciences of their day, especially those which acknowledged the basic corporeality of
human existence. The energy, force or activity of embodied creatures spatial and
temporal beings is understood in the work of each of those philosophers I draw
upon, yet in none of them is there an attempt to reinstate ancient dualisms of
nature/culture. Nor is the world of the non-living, or technology, neglected, though
their status and functioning in the lives of embodied individuals undergo different
treatment at the hands of particular thinkers in ways that are by no means
Before addressing the contributions of such work I want to briefly outline what I
take to be the crucial features of the creatural.
1. At its most basic the creatural body is my term for animality, human and nonhuman. We are animals capable certainly of what we have called rationality yet
animals nonetheless. As with all animals, a human being is its senses. This is the
source of our multisensoriality, each embodied individual being a set of sensory
powers, knowing a world of which it is indisputably a part and yet which, through
its collective practices, it continually creates. However I want to make clear that in
thus describing the embodied human, I am in no sense subscribing to simplistic



notions of bodily determinism. On the contrary: the conception of the creatural that I
offer does not deny the specific functioning of what we have called intelligence,
which is essential to the notion of agency. My version of the creatural has as its
central feature the capacity for independent practical reasoning of the kind that
Alasdair Macintyre regards as essential for human flourishing including, crucially,
moral decision-making. It does, however, insist that such characteristics have their
roots in that sensuous existence which is the distinguishing characteristic of all
sentient beings. Moreover, as I will argue further on, it takes into account those
aspects of embodied beings which traditionally were not regarded as actual part of
an individuated creature (human or other animal), but which are nonetheless integral
to its implacement.
2. The second major characteristic of the creatural arises from the first, and has
to do with articulating the manner in which as human subjects we are located within
our environment of the human (within the intersubjective relation) but also in our
various implacements, furnished as they are with non-human and inanimate objects
that are integral to the idea of environment. The latter is crucial to my account of
embodiment because I want to emphasise not just the relation between and among
human individuals, their connection to other species, but also their relations with all
parts of their world. In other words bodies may be living and non-living as, for
example, in its most radical formulation, Actor-Network theory propounds. What I
want to suggest here is a kind of ecological model of subjectivity which relies
particularly on the phenomenological sense of place, the notion of bodily
intentionality and the relationships between and among all kinds of bodies which
constitute specific sites for action. Life is depicted as consisting in varieties of
location in which embodied individuals dwell, and as the experiential foundation of
community. Recovering the spatial dimension of embodied existence involves a
rethinking of the notion of space as phenomenological place, an idea most
comprehensively explored in recent times by Edward Casey, but which also owes
much to the earlier work of those philosophers of place, Bachelard and Lefebvre, as
well as to the work of Mugerauer and the architect David Seamon. The notion of an
ecological embodied self is for me most clearly derived from Merleau-Pontys
theory of perception and his notion of the flesh of the world, and it has an affinity
with the work of environmental philosophers. But because it emphasises what
human beings do and where their practice is carried out, then it will involve an
understanding of the functioning of emotion in embodied existence. While I will
make some reference to this in the present chapter a fuller exploration is undertaken
in Chapter 4.
As critics of the mind/body dualism and the aforementioned oppositions, these
writers direct our attention to the body as the single unified thing with which each
person most intimately identifies. Yet it seems to me to have been readily forgotten
in education despite its apparent prominence in particular curriculum areas. The
downplaying of the body in education is therefore my starting point. By
downplaying I do not mean merely that momentary forgetting of the bodies which



occurs when, as individuals, we are not consciously attending to them, but rather
something more pervasive and problematic because it involves the disembodying of
school knowledge as curriculum, as well as the privileging of the abstract in human
affairs. In articulating my position, I argue therefore for a renewed attention to the
creatural in educational thinking and practice. Let me begin, then, with a brief
account of the bodys absence in education.
Submersion of the body in educational thinking and practice
Educational thinking in Western societies has always been centrally about questions
of the mind, even though in classical Greek thought much attention was paid to the
cultivation of bodily strength, agility and beauty in the young (male). The old adage
about a sound mind in a healthy body, and a notion such as the educated mind give
some sense of what was thought to be the objective of educational thought and
practice over many centuries. Education as the cultivation of reason or, in more
contemporary terms, of cognitive rationality within the individual, has been
portrayed by the Western philosophical tradition as providing the definitive account
of education.1 From its origins in classical Greek philosophy, down to its reformulation as Enlightenment rationality, reason has included not only our capacity
for logical inference but also our ability to carry out inquiry, to investigate, to find
solutions to problems, to exercise critical and evaluative faculties, to reason about
what is moral, as well as to understand ourselves and other people and our
environment. Not surprisingly current curricula in schools (especially in the
secondary school) reflect the widespread belief that the education of minds is still
the central task of education. Technical or vocational education has usually been the
exception to this, where the aims have been to fit students more directly for the
world of work. This usually entails the acquisition of more obviously corporeal
kinds of skills, though these of course have now been transformed by the use of
technologies. Although curriculum areas such as health, personal development and
the longer established areas of physical education and sport have avowedly had the
body as their main focus, nevertheless it is fair to say that in a long educational
tradition in the West, the development and enhancement of rational capacities or
faculties has been regarded as the major task.
The fundamental association of mind with reason and its influence upon
educational thought goes very deep, providing a foundation for accounts of how
individuals learn as well as informing the ways in which the curriculum has been
shaped over many years. It is undeniable that certain forms of developmental theory
and the uses to which they were put encouraged a view of reason and the exercise of
rationality in the individual as somehow separate from bodies.2 Specifically, reason
seems to have been seen as independent of bodily motility as well as perception,
thereby reinforcing the sense of mental activity removed from the corporeal. The
capacity for exercising autonomous reason has been regarded as the hallmark of the
human being, that is, the key characteristic which distinguishes humans from other



animals. Insistence on the autonomy of reason therefore effectively entrenches the

divisions between rationality (the mind) and perception, movement and emotion, but
also between the human and non-human worlds.
Despite those studies of inscribed bodies which have illuminated the processes of
discursive construction (individuals as gendered, disabled or racially inscribed) there
remains a strong allegiance to an Enlightenment or modernist view of subjectivity as
essentially mental in much educational thinking. Further, human action seems to be
the expression of a specific self-conception and world view which, having been
internalised by the individual, forms the basis for patterns of behaviour. In terms of
the discourses of development and learning, this is a cognitivist position in which
the structures that human beings put in place, and their ongoing practice, are
imagined as arising from internalised discursive rules and the distinctions underlying
them. Note here the emphasis is on the internalisation of rules. Although the direct
external interventions upon bodies may be acknowledged, they are not the real or
even the most important aspect of knowledge construction.
Several decades ago discussion of the hidden curriculum revealed that schools
conveyed not just the official knowledge of the explicit curriculum, but also
attitudes and values, and most particularly ways of thinking about the world that
were in some way a reflection of particular ideological positions.3 More recent
sociological and cultural analyses, enlisting Foucauldian insights and poststructuralist work on discursivity, have focused upon the construction of
subjectivities and the operation of varieties of disciplinary power upon them by
means of the institutional curriculum.4 Such work has highlighted the manner in
which, for example, race, gender or ethnicity can position groups of students as
deficient in educational attainment or disadvantaged as certain kinds of learners.
Perhaps it is a function of a rapidly changing social and political climate worldwide,
or a sense that innovation has gone too far, or even the various effects of technology
on knowledge but, whatever the reasons, there have been renewed emphasise on the
intellectual or mental aspects of what students acquire from their schooling, at the
expense of acknowledging embodied curriculum learning.5 This, in spite of the fact
that much of the older curriculum has been continuously reformed over recent
decades to encompass content that is practical or applied.
The emphasis on the mental or cognitive in developmental theory and
curriculum underscores the fact that much of what goes on in classrooms operates at
the level of what Iris Marion Young, Giddens and others describe as discursive
consciousness that is, a consciousness of action or situation which is either
verbalised (or at least capable of being so), or founded on explicit verbal formula.6
As such it downplays those aspects of situations and events which have to do
directly with bodies, with what happens, so to speak, at the margins of
consciousness, at the level of practical consciousness. For the philosophers and other
thinkers I have focused on in this book, human beings are embodied minds,
not bodies controlled and directed by minds. Students undergoing primary,
secondary and further education experience that education as embodied beings with



an anchoring in materiality. Further, schools and colleges themselves are material

structures as well as social institutions. The sheer physicality of school and other
institutions of learning, the intercorporeal relations of students, teachers and others
is demonstrably concrete, material and carnal. Although discursive analyses of
large-scale social and institutional power upon developing individuals have added an
important dimension to our understanding of the functioning of disciplinary
techniques on school populations, nonetheless such discussions fail to do justice to
the subtlety and complexity of the embodied activity that constitutes learning
episodes which we all undergo on a daily basis.
A quick examination of some of ways in which corporeal education can occur
illustrates the point regarding the need to attend to bodies in the classroom.
The education of bodies takes in a vast array of practices which in crucial ways
contribute to the individuals becoming a person with particular orientations,
tendencies, predilections and behavioural dispositions. Because of the length of time
schooling takes in many parts of the world, it plays a key role in this process. In the
early years individuals learn some very important lessons about the structuring of
time and space lessons which over the total period of their schooling have the
crucial effect of shaping bodies and the movement of bodies within and around
particular spaces. With regard to the spatial aspect it is obvious that the action
inherent in any building that is, the promise of certain kinds of action that waits to
be concretised by human habitation takes particular forms in school buildings, just
as it does in the home and in other places that students habitually occupy. Given the
number of hours children, adolescents and older students spend in educational
settings, it is not surprising that their routine experiences of school buildings will
have an impact, though they may not be explicitly aware of it. Thus the built world
has the power to affirm or suppress creatural existence every bit as much as the socalled natural. As Palasmaa recalls:
We are in constant dialogue and interaction with the environment to the degree that it is
impossible to detach the image of the self from its spatial and situational existence.7

A bias of the mental in theorisations of learning and curriculum can easily

foster an attitude in which encounters with environment (the buildings, grounds and
so on) so often fail to be seen as a relevant part of the school experience.
Direct training of the body is very much in evidence in the infant and primary
years of schooling, with children learning to line up, to stay within a defined space
in the classroom, to sit and stand when it is deemed appropriate for the most part
in response to an invitation or command by a teacher. The protocols of positioning
oneself to be noticed, gaining attention, waiting for the chance to speak, all involve
issues of placement within the confines of a given area. Generally speaking, in
secondary schools the movement of the bodies within school precincts are
determined by the layout of buildings, most often in the form of grids with
classrooms on either side of a general passageway from which exits lead outside the
building. When experienced, the particular structural formations of these schools



means that the students unconsciously mimic that structure with their bones and
muscles. The architecture of schools, especially secondary schools, allows students a
relatively narrow range of bodily movements (as of course do commercial, government and administrative edifices, and even many apartment buildings) but this is
also the case for teachers upon whom there are similar bodily constraints: for both,
the architecture and the interior organisation regulate the space in which they move
on a daily basis even though this relation between bodies and buildings may remain
largely unnoticed. But all such deep embeddedness in ones habitual places is
nonetheless a major characteristic of human creatures, just as it is for non-human
creatures. It is in my view a profound expression of creatural life, not least because
of its fundamental sociality.
Undeniably there are differences in the way the space is experienced by
individuals. Later in this chapter and again in Chapter 3, I will draw more fully
upon the notion of phenomenological space as place and Caseys account of
implacement. Here I simply note that in the context of schooling, each child or
adolescent makes a place for themselves within the larger environs by virtue of
their personal, bodily identifications with the building and the particular manner in
which their bodies listen, touch and measure the space they move in throughout the
day. In the taken-for-grantedness of busy lives, and increasingly in the lives of
students of all ages in their schools, there is not, surprisingly, a preoccupation with
purposes, goals and strategies, involving various abstracting processes that draw
attention away from the ways the world presents itself to us. The latter encompasses
specifically our embodied manner of encountering the textures, weight and density
of the objects among which we move habitually. They include movement, being
fixed or stationary, and the phenomenological notion of encounter: our continually
fluctuating awareness of our immediate environment. Such awareness continually
advances and retreats as we experience our environment. Each moment of encounter
is like no other in terms of intensity and the degree and quality of contact which
embodied subjects have each and every day of their lives. But all conscious
awareness of an environment is underlain by a more basic sort: a sort of preconscious attention which, as in the case of movement, arises only from bodies
themselves. It is this kind of fundamental, perceptual implacement which is the
ground for all of the individual bodys access to the world. Yet it is precisely this
which can often be overlooked.
With regard to time, schedules and timetables organise the term or semester, and
each day. The day itself is divided into prespecified periods, the beginning and
conclusion of each being marked by the operation of a buzzer or some other acoustic
means acknowledging the change from one period to the next. There is a specific
amount of time allowed for moving from one class to another. Eating, going to the
toilet and attending to other needs must occur at designated times as does social
intercourse including, notably, conversation. The school day is punctuated by
a series of beginnings and endings, fitting with a wider world, especially that
of work which is likewise temporally divided. So the measurement of time is an



indispensable aspect of schooling. An individual (student or teacher) can usually be

located in a particular place at a particular time in the school day. Temporal routines
of this kind maintain a continuity in the life of the student, managing the habitual,
repetitive aspects of school life. Supposedly such routines assist in freeing our
conscious attention for the more important tasks of the mind. Moreover the
activities occurring within the various time frames (single lesson usually, or perhaps
a double) are often isolated units, especially in secondary education. The temporal
routines of schooling rarely fuse to enhance potential interpersonal dynamism. This
is because the school day is about what Ricoeur calls objectively measured cosmic
time, in contrast to subjectively lived existential time. It is precisely the kind of
time to which children and adolescents must become accustomed, for it is the kind
of time which will govern their lives as adults, especially as employees or employers
but also as consumers, taxpayers and even as citizens.
Existential time on the other hand, like phenomenological space, has tended to
become discursively submerged. As Grosz has argued, time is an irreducible term in
all of knowledge discourse and social practice, yet is rarely examined, functioning
rather as a kind of silent companion to each of these.8 But time is at the very centre
of embodiment: living beings essentially have duration precisely because they
are continually elaborating that which is new. It necessarily involves searching,
creation time is creation or it is nothing at all and a groping towards.9 The
conception of time which underlies education, however, is that of clock time which
is objective and measurable, the kind of time that homogenises all other modes of
passing. Moreover it does this insensitively. A certain wholeness or unity is
imposed, but only through homogenisation and reduction of the duration of specific
events and processes. This is particularly noticeable in the secondary school where
both teachers and students are aware of the way in which the demands of time
passing can impose a considerable sense of urgency. Teachers speak of getting
through as much syllabus material as possible in a given forty-or fifty-minute
period. Students at all levels in education are conscious of how much can be fitted
into fifty minute period, how much they can cover in a two-hour laboratory session
or a practical demonstration. The view of knowledge which fits most comfortably
with this sense of time is quantitative, factual, providing amounts of material that
can be slotted into the bounded time frame.
In the school setting, students, their teachers and others learn how to modulate
bodily behaviours in particular ways: walking, being seated, moving around and
lingering in certain spots before taking up another cycle of activity. Although we
may pay little conscious attention to this, the perceptual tools of the individual are
thereby shaped, creating patterns that will be repeated as certain kinds of relations
and as layers of identity throughout life.10 Individuals learn to deal with other kinds
of object desks, doors, hallways but also crucially with their peers and teachers
in specific ways, observing unspoken understandings about proximity, discriminations and preferences just as all animals do. Bodies of students and staff alike
are incarnate learned patterns of action and attitude that have arisen out of previous



experience. What occurs here, then, is the direct somatic transmission of the culture
to those being educated.
The shaping of bodies, however, continues apace without being evidenced at
the level of consciousness, or in more familiar philosophical language, of the
mind. This corporeal shaping involves basically the acquisition of certain kinds of
perceptual and behavioural skills and dispositions which, unless subjected to definite
kinds of bodily intervention, remain throughout the individuals life. The process
also encompasses the production of specific kinds of strengths and limitations,
laying down fluidities which become as much a part of the self as the language
spoken. These processes pertain directly to the creatural dimension of our lives, the
quintessentially private organic life that is the body, what Nietzsche acknowledged
as our most certain being, and what according to Merleau-Ponty we most
profoundly and immediately are.
For me creatural existence is affirmed through the direct impact upon bodies of
material forces and not just the hidden symbolic meanings individuals may have
developed meanings which traditional discourse of mind tell us have been in some
sense internalised by those individuals. The focus required is that which examines
the nature of these impacts and their precise working upon bodies in specific spatiotemporal situations. In other words we need to determine how bodies have been
shaped through direct behavioural influence and the physical (human and nonhuman) environment in which they abide as embodied human beings. Schooling is
rich in resources for the somatic moulding of bodies; such shaping is an essential
aspect of identity formation. Through education and other experiences we come to
have a repertoire of bodily dispositions and attitudes. We are, in a fundamental
sense, a cluster of coordinations of arms, legs, spinal cord and most especially
hands. In Merleau-Pontys parlance our bodies are in the world. But they are there in
a particular manner, though the particularity has the character of being both cultural
and individual. So while it is true that to become a member of a specific kind of
culture is to have a certain kind of body, it is also true that there is an irreducibly
individual aspect to each ones bodily being.
It follows then that an indispensable part of peoples identity is manifested in
their bodily dispositions, habits, and abilities or skills. These form a central part of
the motor skills, perceptual discriminations and behavioural responses which make a
person what she or he is. Together these are the identity she or he has which others
presumably recognise. This is not a particularly startling insight when we recall that
direct somatic training of a new human being starts immediately after birth and will
involve a huge range of practices including, centrally, the use of language, the aim
being the production of a member of the society. Such practices cover holding and
touching, dress, the control of physical space, the eliciting of behaviours through
certain sorts of address, the use of voice and gesture to modulate behaviours and so
on. As a child develops, learning becomes indirect, encompassing the conceptual,
developing understanding of relationships and status as well as the essential growth
of the notion of social acceptability, emotional responses and moral judgements. But



these aspects, while they appear to operate in the realm of the mental as aspects of
the mind are never removed from the physical. Bodily dispositions are
inextricably implicated in what we do. Even the learning of the native language
gives the bodies of children a quite specific configuration, one which is by no means
confined to facial muscles, mouth and neck, but in which the whole body is involved
in acquiring a characteristic vocal/gestural vocabulary with its identifying posture
and movements. One of the greatest benefits in learning another or even several
other languages is that it provides a window onto what it is to have different ways of
seeing and knowing the world in a manner that is not only intellectual but also
robustly corporeal.
But knowing is not merely a matter of what goes on inside individual bodies. It
involves in very complex ways the manner in which humans (and other animals)
make the world into things and objects through their activities, and the processes by
which things, technologies and organisations also shape and modify people.
Therefore an account of creatural existence must, in my view, take into account
the functioning of technologies in human practice. The joining of human beings with
the inanimate in creation is a particularly complex and controversial issue. There
have been attempts at the theorisation of the processes involved and their
significance for an understanding of practice and responsibility, with Actor Network
Theory being perhaps the most radical in terms of its characterisation of humans and
technology. In the work of Bruno Latour in particular, embodied human actors seem
to relinquish a position of ontological privilege, to take their place beside varieties of
non-living objects or technologies relevant to a particular project, no participant in a
given project apparently having greater importance than any other. Alarming as this
may at first appear, it is neither an attempt to treat humans like objects nor to accept
machines as social actors, but rather in Latours determined non-dualism, a potent
way of describing the folding of the animate and non-animate within practice.
Keeping in mind that Latours focus is on the practice of science, nonetheless his
formulation regarding the folding of the human and non-human in action has I think
wider significance in that it suggests if the non-human ceases to be regarded as mere
object, then their entanglement with humans in all arenas of practice requires
rethinking. So too does the conception of what is emcompasssed by the term
social. In Pandoras Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies and Politics of
Nature. How to Bring the Sciences Into Democracy, Latour describes a situation of
hybridity in which humans and other animals, deities, planets, markets, atoms and
untold numbers of other entities animate and inanimate, enact forms of agency as
actants which constitute collectivities of practice.11 So far from inhabiting a
society that looks outward upon a natural world, or a natural world that encompasses
the human social world as merely one of its components, we live in an environment
(my term) in which human and non-human comingle through activity, practice, that
is by means of what is done in a specific place and time for specific purposes.
Purposes, however, are not attributed to machines no matter how complex, but
remain the province of animate beings.



The transformations wrought in embodied actors through their taking up

available technology (always specific to a particular time, place and task) shape
significantly the character of particular practices. So it might be said not that we are
what we do, but rather that the doing itself is governed by what we have, so
to speak, in our hands at the moment of action. Technologies therefore cannot be
characterised either as mere tools for human use on the one hand or as
uncontrollable forces which ultimately take control over all aspects of human life,
removing from it any real sense of agency. Rather, to the extent that actors are
altered by what they use (what they do with what they have at hand, so to speak),
they extend the boundaries of their individual bodies beyond the skin. In education
the playing of the musical instrument, the manipulation of laboratory equipment in
science classes, the making and wearing of masks and costumes in drama or history
lesson, the tending to animals or planting of gardens in agricultural education not
only awaken awareness of ones own embodiment but allow us to expand our sense
of agency. Thus is a sense of embodiment is returned to human actors, in particular
the manner in which the hands and eyes work together to extend subjectivity by
means of an extension of these senses. A good description of what is happening here
is the animation of the non-animate. Unfortunately the more abstract education
becomes the less it allows this recollecting of the complexity of embodiment and its
fundamentally relational character.
The relational nature of embodied human being is revealed in what is usually
referred to in philosophy as the intersubjective relation between people, their
fundamentally communicative connection to each other. But in the examples I have
given above, the connection concerns not only an embodied human or species of
animal, but also those things which traditionally have been referred to as tools,
equipment or more broadly now as technology. Latours work is significant to the
present discussion because it focuses on practice in a radical way, his particular form
of anti-dualism emphasising the insistent reality of material things in their
interactions with the human. For me, one of the most interesting innovations
emerging from his sociology of scientific practice concerns the nature of agency
which, rather than being tightly bounded within the skin of the individual, is spread
across various kinds of participants, animate and non-animate, emphasising relations
among the participants rather than the actions of separate (human) entities. Lest this
be interpreted as a form of technological determinism, Latour reminds us that he is
not attempting to extend subjectivity to things, that is to treat humans like objects
or to take machines for social actors, instead to bypass altogether talk of subject
object. Thus, it seems to me that he expands the notion of sociality to more
accurately reflect the nature of the relations between and among all kinds of bodies,
animate and non-animate.
The significance of this in terms of my own exploration of the creatural is that it
demonstrates quite dramatically the extension of the embodied individuals senses
through technologies into that which is beyond the skin of the individual. In other
words new senses beyond the confines of the skin are constantly being created by



means of such technological extensions. Far from diminishing our humanity and
agency, what they support is my claim that not only do we need our senses but it
seems we need more and more of them. Certain technologies are precisely the
extension of these senses, examples being radio telescopes, devices for carrying out
microsurgery or probes of various types used to photograph internal organs of the
body. But technologies are not merely a means for humans to somehow reach
directly into what had previously been labelled inert matter; on the contrary, they are
actually mediations between the senses of the human body which bring about a
continuance of creation through action. They are perhaps most obvious in relation to
the endless varieties of work we carry out, a theme I will return to in the next
chapter. In other words we operationalise the things we have in order to further our
doing. In our continuous practice we enlist others, human and non-human, and in
the process make and remake relations. This does not suggest that there are no
distinctions to be made between animate and non-animate. As I have noted above,
animals and humans in particular have purposes, machines do not. But perhaps more
importantly is the reality that only animals humans and others species suffer, and
that, in the final analysis, is what really matters to social, political and above all to
ethical life.
Engagement in embodied action is not merely a matter for the individuals
embodiment (though it is of course that) but rather in developing a manner of being
characteristic of her or his culture; it highlights the ways in which emotion is
experienced and expressed, the ways in which the demands of status and authority
are recognised and responded to in that milieu, the signature ways of being athome in various places within the environment, and in general the habits
appropriate to the culture. There are basic ways of being that over time are etched
into the young individuals muscles and skeleton, the responses these then demand
becoming embedded as neural pathways in the brain. Memory itself is sedimented in
the body such that specific clusters of values and categories that are core to
particular cultures are entrusted to the body. These can be observed when groups of
people from differing cultures come into contact, displaying marked or more subtle
differences in such behaviours as attitudes towards touching, managing eye-contact,
directing attention from another individual or refusing it, and to patterns of listening
and speaking. These values and categories also encompass activities undertaken to
form corporeal habits but end up being much more than mere corporeal habits.
Since their entry into the individual is not by means of the presentation of ideas and
concepts, but instead by means of direct bodily intervention, they in fact bypass
consciousness, becoming ingrained as basic orientations towards the world. A
cognitive paradigm unfortunately denies the bodys active intentional capacities.
It has been customary to distinguish the more physical curriculum areas from
the academic curriculum. The former has historically included those areas variously
labelled technical or vocational and is often characterised as essentially distinct from
the latter. But the mental - physical separation can be seen also in terms of the way
in which, as students reach the end of their secondary education, the separation



becomes more noticeable. Physical education, the area dealing explicitly with the
body, while being somewhat overtly connected to other areas in the junior years,
becomes the furthest removed conceptually and in terms of practice from the
academic curriculum subject areas in the senior years; though this is changing as the
field has expanded to encompass Health, Sex Education, Personal Development, and
a variety of lifestyle education areas. Physical Education or Sport occupies a
peculiar position in that it reflects the traditional dichotomous thinking of the
separation of mind and body: it is the obverse of the cognitivist position and as such
has enormous demands placed upon it to fulfil its role as the only fully somatic
subject area in the curriculum. Educational drama, contemporary dance and creative
movement, on the other hand, also offer rich possibilities for having students use the
body as an instrument of expression (and not only those who are highly skilled at it,
as is often the case in sport), at the same time helping them grasp such activities as
important ways of knowing in their own right. At their best, these curriculum areas
can make accessible to students the processes involved in creatural meaningmaking, generating significations that are not merely of the mind, but rather are fully
embodied. However, as I indicated in the previous chapter, there are opportunities in
all curriculum areas for giving greater weight to the bodys capacity for creating its
Cognitivist accounts of mind and the developing individual fail to give full
recognition to direct somatic learning in education because they tend to associate the
acquisition of cultural characteristics with the learning of ideas, the acquiring of
concepts. This way of looking at learning is a continuation of the traditional
rationalist view of the mind and the mind body split. The remedy however cannot
be a simple inversion of the mind body dichotomy, that is to say a repudiation of
the mental, but a much more corporeally aware examination of what actually
happens when embodied students learn. It involves a thoroughgoing assessment of
the role of the senses and emotions in the individuals knowledge-creation and a
better understanding that, as we acquire ideas, we also acquire certain bodily
dispositions, attitudes and habits. While cognitivist views remain deeply influential
in education, both explicitly and implicitly, they sustain a sometimes dangerous
fiction that learners only develop as such when they overcome the body, subduing
the senses and relegating passion to the dimension of animal existence. In this way
creatural existence, (in Nietzsches terms, that which is our most certain being),
with its immediate bodily feeling, remains in the shadows.
There is no doubt, as I argued in the previous chapter, that the modern individual
dwells in a world which through a multiplicity of media is deconstructed and
reconstructed at extraordinary speed.12 Yet we can recognise reality as an interpretative construction with the body as fundamental constructor. In constructing
their world embodied subjects bring to bear many elements and life processes in a
unity that produces meaningful interaction with the world. For Nietzsche the human
being is a creature that needs meaning, demanding not only the achievement but also
awareness of power, not as domination but as agency. Creatural existence for human



beings is about maximising meaning, but through the operation of sensuous

embodiment including, these days, through the technological extension of the senses
as I have outlined above. This therefore would seem to be an obvious aim for
education to assist students in the task of making embodied meaning. Theories
which privilege cognition and practices based on them do not assist students in the
task of self-understanding and may actually undermine attitudes of respect for the
body which is, after all, the source of life-enhancing pleasures.13
Human practices what individuals do are not simply the result of mental
representations that can be made explicit and therefore dealt with at this level.
Rather, they are largely unconscious: they are not just the product of processes of
symbolic activities in the mind which can be accessed through further discursive
processing. They are in fact tied inextricably to a vast repertoire of bodily
dispositions, which also bear the imprint or shape of the resident technologies
inhabiting various sites which are the particular places in which those bodies are
niched. This is to say that individuals act as they do because they have the bodies
they do and have habitually in their hands, or at hand, various objects, technologies
and so on. Neither cognitivist theories of individual behaviour and mind nor
discursivist theories of social inscription provide an understanding of this. So we
need to understand not merely those imbalances and inequalities which are
discursively constructed, but those which are somatically effected in other words,
those which directly involve the bodily discriminations and dispositions imprinted
on individual bodies, and the manner in which these are experienced, responded to
and how they ultimately become part of embodied selves. We need to follow this
through, therefore, in education by trying to understand how individuals make
themselves corporeally, how they build up in tandem a repertoire that is expressive
of who they are and that affords them a wealth of opportunity for creative
Some accounts of social inscription of bodies suggest that individual identities
can be altered through the body, that is, through bodily transformation. Undoubtedly
there is some justification for this claim. But it seems to me also to run the risk of
depicting bodies as shaped as it were from above, and often with the purpose of
expounding various abstractions about kinds of bodies (gendered, disabled, anorexic
etc). On the other hand a psychologisation of the body is evident in rationalist or
cognitivist views, especially within education, where the insistence on a kind of
transcendental consciousness accords it oversight of the activities of the body which
it directs. What both views seem to me to overemphasise is the notion that identities
are constructed out of symbols, concepts and theorisation. Whether inscribed from
the outside or from the inside, as world view or cultural outlook developing within
the individual, who one is can turn out to be a simply a function of the ideational and
But as I have argued, the realities of embodiment encourage us to contest this
one-sided equation of ideas, beliefs with identity. It is my contention in this book
that certain aspects of who we are, our selves, our identity, are not merely the



product of what we think about or the concepts we have learned, but are, on the
contrary, independent of what we know. Some of the most fundamental dispositions
and capacities we have notably the sense of what the sociologist Michel Maffesoli
has called fellow-feeling, or empathy are not learned merely through grasping
concepts or having ideas. But in those instances where this does occur, the concepts
have been acquired in ways that have a corporeal as well as a cognitive reality. For
MacIntyre they are a function of the dependence and vulnerability of all human
animals, especially in their early years, and the unavoidable connection with others
which arises from these conditions. Our bodies, as philosopher and feminist Hlne
Cixous reminds us, are the place for manifestation of the passionate, the multiplicity
of fine and subtle affects that are available to human beings precisely because of
their embodied humanity.14 The body is the starting point because it not only
furnishes the individuals basic spatio temporal stance towards the world but also
the fundamental drives towards pleasure, power and the enhancement of life, all of
which underlie the subsequent striving for knowledge. As an organising centre in
which things are gathered and organically conserved, the body is that abiding
presence which is rendered so as much through the muscle-memory of bodily habit
as it is through ideas held in consciousness or by means of the inscription of cultural
tropes. Thus education cannot simply be a matter of what we put into students
minds, nor of what can be read off their inscribed bodies.
Because certain behaviours and dispositions are the apparent outcome of students
acquiring sets of concept or theoretical understandings, it does not necessarily
follow that such learning will be sufficient to bring about a desired change in basic
embodied dispositions. This is particularly relevant in the teaching of values and the
inculcation of attitudes and orientations such as curiosity, perseverance or tolerance
of ambiguity. In such instances the specific dispositions may appear to have been
acquired mentally, that is at the level of thought. But this downplays the reality that
such conceptual schema, beliefs, attitudes are not merely held in the mind but are
imprinted into the musculature, bones, organs and nerves of the individual, the
dispositions or capacities eventually becoming a function not only of the
consciousness which has the specific ideas, but of the embodied individual whose
corporeal identity now incorporates those dispositions and capacities. What this
illustrates effectively is that building up the stock of ideas an individual has (a
cognitive repertoire?) does not really tell us what she knows unless it taps into the
manner in which that individual has learned to perceive, feel and behave in specific
ways corporeally. It is the corporeality of dispositions-formation that is essential,
and it is precisely this understanding which is often ignored, but which must be
Thus education is not simply concerned with the cultivation of mind. But nor
does it consist chiefly in having individuals understand their discursive positioning
as member of a social group. Rather it is about how embodied existence in all of its
fullness and complexity can be understood, and how individuals can and do, when
required, engage productively in embodied action, that is, creatural activity. Such



creatural activity will involve direct engagement with, and interventions in, the
complex processes by which corporeal states and dispositions are shaped and
moulded on the one hand by a basic physical environment, and on the other by its
cultural forms. As educators we surely should attempt to understand both aspects.
For example, we may in genuinely interdisciplinary fashion (across the curriculum)
pay critical attention to features of built and non-built environment, not just as a
kind of academic study, but as a matter of unavoidable, active encounter in which
human beings are involved. We can draw explicit attention to the fact that all
buildings, including those of the school or college, interact with the bodies of
inhabitants, their body schemes being projected into the spaces inside the building.
When we experience a structure we unconsciously mimic it with our muscles and
bones: our skeletal system both comprehends and mimics the building itself as a
whole and in its parts. Therefore, architecture when sensuously attended to, can
provide us with an understanding of depth and connection to the earth itself or,
conversely, as in the case of some buildings, it may erode existential meaning,
showing us, if we are fortunate, what needs to be contested and refused in the future.
Education continues to be presented as a process undergone to provide
knowledge and skills, but there remains a strong cognitive emphasis in this.
Educational experiences are construed as contributing to the development of mind.
What is often forgotten is that people are bodies and all human experience is
incarnated: much of what we take in enters directly through our bodies and even
when it is more indirect it still has powerful corporeal ramifications. Merleau-Ponty
reminds us that we take in the world by means of our senses and the particular
structure of our perceptual organs eyes, ears, nose, hands shape and mould the
objects of that world which we apprehend. The significance of this cannot be
underestimated, I think. It is the ground of our creatural existence, one we share with
other species, though we often do not think much about this and when we do may be
unnerved, even affronted by it. It has ramifications across the curriculum and is, I
think, especially relevant to issues of social, environmental and citizenship
education. But above all, it is central to an account of what education for personhood
might entail. Our responses to the world are always embodied as we inhabit places
in which we enact our lives, motivated by feelings, desires and needs arising directly
out of our corporeality. The intersubjective realm, too, is corporeal it is always an
exchange of visual and tactile activity, of speech, emotion and ways of seeing and
As I argued in my introduction and again in Chapter 1, discursivist perpectives
generally emphasise the inscriptions of varieties of social discourse, and of course
the power effects upon the bodies subject to them. However, Butler, as I have noted,
avoids the trap of seeing the body as either natural or cultural, or portraying the body
as a kind of natural surface or purely passive medium for social inscription, whereby
culture imposes meaning upon nature. Drawing upon Foucaults analysis of the
body, she maintains that the natural body of traditional mind body meaning one
which stands over and against either a rational disembodied mind or a dumb



material/natural entity available for passive inscription is illusory. For Butler, the
body is not an abiding natural ground in a traditional sense but rather is always
already a cultural sign.15 She shows how it is that bodies are both regulated and
inscribed by societies. But inscription upon actual bodies is a complex affair and, as
Butler is all too aware, discursive accounts can fail to do justice to the diversity of
practices and outcomes which are involved and the effects on particular bodies in
their spatial and temporal contexts. As the following brief discussion will show,
there are differences in the significations which varieties of inscriptive practices will
have in different times and places.
The body itself, and the skin specifically as its surface, can be covered in
varieties of markings. Social marking of the body has a very long history and has
been practised widely in diverse cultures. Stigmatisation as in branding of slaves, the
mutilation of criminals, of women and certain groups of men were negative forms of
compulsion visited upon particular kinds of bodies by social authority. But there are
many forms of marking which were of a different kind various forms of tattooing,
body painting and external forms of decoration such as the wearing of medals or
other paraphernalia. Such decoration serves a more positive social ceremonial
function while still impressing upon the body certain power relations in terms of
status and social position. An example is the highly decorative body painting
practices of Aboriginal women, or those of men whose elaborate facial decoration is
aimed at attracting females. All of these practices of the body are distinguished by
the fact that they involve the larger social entity working upon individuals bodies,
albeit with differing effects and outcomes for those individuals. This aspect is very
much what discursive theorists have in mind when they refer to bodily inscription.
But as Foucault demonstrated, the body has now become the locus of intervention in
its function as the producer of disciplined bodies. And this involves a move away
from the direct marking of bodies by social instrumentalities to varieties of
elaboration of ones own body. It also encompasses a new awareness of the
plasticity of the body: the previous permanent alteration of the body through
punitive branding and scarring is replaced by the moveable signs which have
multiplied in recent decades in the West.
But the inscription of the body with social signs and cultural categories as
described by many cultural theorists, extends far beyond the techniques of actual
body decoration such as tattooing, piercing, cosmetic surgical changes and the like.
As Mauss points out, the techniques of the body begin to operate upon the new
corporeal being very quickly after birth.16 In other words the corporeal aspects of
socialisation begin immediately. Every human culture has specific techniques of
bringing the new-born up in accordance with the particular codes for the bodys
appearance both in its static and its more dynamic representations, that is, as the
outlook of the body in its various modes moving, standing, gesturing, approaching and responding to others, managing ones relationship to the non-animate
environment, and so on. The applied techniques of body socialisation
mark us out in terms of gender, age, social status and relative authority. But not only



do they mark us out according to the requirement for socially recognisable

representations or symbolic identifications: they become practices of the body, and
are those processes lived continuously by individuals. Thus we learn habits as
particular kinds of socially designated bodies, particularly those relating to gender
and age, and these codes then come to determine what is to be the natural mode of
the body for a specific culture.
The account of creatural existence I have suggested thus far in this chapter insists
that we have connection to the sensuous world through our own sensuousness, becoming
conscious that our own bodies are, in a significant sense, socially constructed, but at
the same time acknowledging that we have a much more complex relation to them,
as indeed we have to what we presently call technologies. It is also essential to the
second sense of creatural that of the relationship between the embodied self and its
environment, that ecological subjectivity as I have called it elsewhere, and of being
in place and thus in tune with our world.17 These dimensions of embodied
experience go to the heart of creatural existence and are essential to the process that
philosophers and social theorists alike see as the primary activity of human
embodiment that of meaning-making.
Creatural existence and meaning
If we return to the older dualisms for just a moment it seems that the discursive
world with its constitution through language appears to remove us from what used to
be called nature, yet the body returns us to the natural by means of our own
embodiment. What makes the matter complex is precisely the fact of the body that
I am my body and the reality that although bodies are subjects of cultural and
historical discourses, they are at the same time the very centre of our embodied
givenness and therefore in fact immersed in the forward movement of time. So there
remains a fundamental aspect of bodily experience that can never be translated into
linguistic or discursive constructs. This will include most importantly the fact that
although emotion occurs in culturally specified ways, nonetheless sensations and
emotions are never entirely communicable to others as they concern the deepest
aspects of an individuals embodied experience. Moreover, while discourses are
clearly involved in enabling individuals to experience their bodies, there remain
certain aspects of what is lived by individuals which will always evade discourse.
These without doubt will include in certain instances the functioning in the
experiencing of the individual of those technological actors referred to by ActorNetwork Theorists.
We cannot speak meaningfully of pure natural body, that is one which has not
been enculturated in the manner previously described. But neither, I would argue, is
there a static culturalised body, one which in its always already there character, is
somehow prior to nature. Rather, as feminist Carol Bigwood has
argued persuasively drawing extensively upon Merleau-Pontys account of
embodied subjecttivity our human being takes place within a natural cultural



relational field.18 Merleau-Ponty provides a specific account of embodiment that

takes us beyond the dichotomy of the natural/cultural body. The body as lived is the
centrepiece of his work. Because of its phenomenological character this account of
embodiment allows us to engage not only with the notion of lived experience of the
body, but also with its embeddedness in place, its implacement in its environs, both
human and non-human. This is the view of the body that regards it neither as a
passive receptor, nor as mere accompaniment to consciousness. For Merleau-Ponty,
the body is a sentience that comes into being with a specific kind of existential
environment. It is not merely a passive recipient of sensory inputs but has a
particular sensitivity to its environs which is unique. Bodies are actively and always
in connection with their surroundings; in their never-ending projects, they are
directed always beyond their own boundaries to the wider existence of the world,
including its myriad technologies and other body-subjects.
So the sensitive body, deeply in communion with its environment, is not a body
over which mind has control. In other words, it is not that body which educational
theorising has assumed a separate entity in a world of material objects but rather
is of the very same stuff of its environs, living and non-living bodies. As such it is
never fixed but rather emerges again and again out of a constantly changing web of
relations to an environment of things, people, projects, demands and the earth with
its species and features. The dynamic world is not to be thought of as groups of fully
present objects or as a material objective reality that stands outside of the body,
separated from it. As Merleau-Ponty describes the world earth home, it is rather
an omnipresent horizon that is latent in each and every experience the individual
undergoes. This account of embodiment reminds us, then, that a unified contingent
field of relations is present to the embodied individual as its most immediate,
familiar and intimate situation.
Responding to a cognitivist account of his day regarding experience, MerleauPonty reminds us that living bodily sensation is not an experience of consciousness.
It is not simply thought about, but occurs within the specificities of quite particular
projects and relationships of which the lived body is the locus. The salient point
here is that our sentient relation to our environment is actually a precognitive one.
As embodied beings we are attuned by means of our senses to our environment; we
are harmonised with it and have an incipient knowledge of it prior to cognising
it. Intellectuation does not first secure the possibility of sentience; on the contrary, it
is this sentience which first secures the intimate bonding with environment thus, as
Dewey recalls, enabling cognition. As corporeal beings we do not grasp determinate
objects in the world cognitively. Rather, sensed objects are immersed in the flux of
the indeterminacy of relational contexts. What we encounter as sentient embodied
creatures is a field whose constituent aspects are touch, sounds, smells, colours, and
emotions, out of which emerge meanings, the crucial point here being that the
sensory communications with the environment precede thinking.
What Merleau-Ponty meant, I think, is that the unity of objects in the world is
not achieved by a cognitive operation of association or judgement, but rather by a



non-cognitive apprehension of immanent meanings in the sensible field. Sentient

bodies (and these are not only human) are attuned to life which in effect makes its
way across the visual field, binding its elements together it gathers up in a
constitutive stroke the meanings that unite clusters of relations; it simultaneously
uncovers the meaning such objects have and ensures that in fact they have meaning.
Thus it is that perception actively apprehends meanings, but they are meanings
which are also inherent in sensible signs of the visual field and therefore cannot be
attributed to the operation of mind. As Bigwood argues, the sentient body does not
cognitively constitute meanings but takes already existing perceptual meanings,
hovering, so to speak, in the background.19 This is achieved only by means of a
silent communication and a unique bodily questioning that can only find its echo in
the perceptual horizon.
So the sentient, perceptual body which each of us is, comes to be guided in its
syntheses by motives in the environment, not by causes or concepts. Such motives
cannot be understood as objective causes of perception because motives are
themselves essentially inarticulate and indeterminate, therefore allowing endless
variation in the manner in which bodies will take them up, clustering and combining
them. Motives for Merleau-Ponty mean simply a practical significance demanding
corporeal recognition; they are aspects of an open situation inviting certain kinds
of solution. The question of whether or not the phenomenal meanings promised by
motives will be released and so find an answering in the body is a recurring one. The
phenomenological body is not a fixed biological entity immersed in a physical world
which impacts causally upon it. It is, rather, a constant movement towards situations
within which the body must seek out its indeterminate supports. As Latour
demonstrates, these supports will include the multiplicity of technologies located as
a matter of course in any environment or place, or situated as participant within a
specific project waiting to be carried out. Implicit sensory meanings are open,
indeterminate tensions shaping and directing our perceptions. But for them to finally
become phenomenally meaningful they must be gathered up by perception itself and
then acted upon.
It is clear, then, that meanings are neither merely cognitive nor linguistic. Indeed
the term meaning as understood in much cognitive theory and in other fields must
be discarded in light of this framework. In view of the radical nature of the
capacities of a corporeality which in Merleau-Pontys terms has already sided with
its perceptual environs, older rationalist versions of meaning-creation is rendered
obsolete. As Bigwood notes, the French term sens not only covers sense and
significance but also direction, indicating therefore that the non-cognitive and the
non-linguistic are included in meaning creation.20 This is a most important feature
of Merleau-Pontys theory of meaning. It indicates that sensory meanings are most
accurately described as being latent in that they are indeterminate tensions which
shape our perception. Nevertheless, as I have noted above, the operation of
perception must gather them, for their being rendered meaning-ful.



But perception does not hold determinate objects. Rather it is a logic that is
lived through but which cannot account for itself. The synthesis which occurs is
always partial, having effects that are limited in duration. For example, when I see a
house in a country landscape, my eyes fix upon the former and the fields fade into
the background. In this way my eyes actually come to inhabit the house, gathering
it up as a unified object. But the house does not become a finished object, one that is
translucent to consciousness. It remains as a perceived thing, indeterminate and in a
condition of incompleteness for living experience. Thus significances of this kind
will always be open to change. Something can appear, that is, show itself, only
because of other aspects of itself which are hidden. For Merleau-Ponty then,
corporeal subjects always encounter a horizon of other things and sides of things
which are not sensed, but which nonetheless persist as non-sensory presence. I sense
this hidden, spatial side of things despite the fact that the sensing has no
physiological basis. Bodily perception is moreover incomplete, not only because it is
spatially spread beyond its present focus, but also because it is temporal and must be
untiringly reiterated in us. For Merleau-Ponty there will always be more to the
things we sense at a particular instant because our corporeal existence occurs within
the indeterminate horizons of time and space that is, we are pulled towards a past
that our bodies have already taken up, but are simultaneously propelled towards a
future which our bodies project.
So it seems that our existence as incarnate beings is always to a certain extent
indeterminate because it consists of an endless process of rendering the meaningless
meaningful. But it is also ambiguous because the primary sensory meanings which
are accessed by means of our coexistence with others and the world will always
have varieties of meaning. The idea, then, that bodies are somehow fixed or given,
consisting of structures that are determinate, is erroneous. Nevertheless our bodies
are ambiguously joined with their world, specifically with those relationships which
define and redefine them in a multiplicity of contexts. Discursive accounts of the
body, as I have remarked previously, focus on the fluidity of readings of the body
and the manner of inscription upon them. In such accounts the body is not some kind
of fixed foundation for differently gendered and other kinds of socially inscribed
subjectivities. The very same body (though it could be argued that it is not actually
the same) is differently inscribed in a variety of discourses.21
Having acknowledged the changeability of the body as it is inscribed in differing
discourses, it is important to reinforce the point that our bodies are not merely
discursive constructs. This means that we must then accept that they are, in MerleauPontys terms, the very medium for our having a cultural world but that they are also
the medium by which we have any sort of world at all. So while the body is
undeniably impacted upon by the various systems of representation that exist, it is
embedded in its world by means of an inextricable intertwining of the human and
non-human (including most importantly, other species of animal), the cultural and
the natural. There is, underlying individual and cultural living, what Merleau-Ponty
refers to as the natural body. Flowing through us, yet independent of us, it provides



the possibility of phenomenal presence. Each perception occurs in this atmosphere

of generality and comes to us anonymously, so to speak. Just as we are thrown into
that mortal situation in which we find ourselves, already born and still alive, so
we are thrown into incarnate situations, modalities of existence, already destined for
a fleshy world.22
A useful description of our relation to our environment is that of the connatural
body, because it avoids the unfortunate connotations of the old nature/culture
dualism. The connatural body that ceaselessly finds its way into the very centre of
our everyday lives despite the absences of the body which Drew Leder draws
attention to continually enunciates our communications with others and with
things.23 However it is neither foundation nor origin in the sense of a fixed
metaphysical ground that certifies, but is a ground in the sense of an indeterminate
constancy and thus one that can in fact be easily repressed, ignored or forgotten. In
sum then, the connatural body is neither logically nor empirically prior to the
cultural or discursive body, but is existentially a codeterminant of the body and
therefore can be legitimately distinguished in one sense from cultural determinants.
As embodied subjects we are in communication with a rich and inexhaustible
sensory world that we do not in any sense possess and which takes place anterior to
ourselves. Nevertheless our non-personal self cannot be separated from its
intermingling existence in things and in the personal lives of individuals. Such a
model of the embodied subject demonstrates clearly, I believe, that we exist
simultaneously in natural and cultural modes that are tangled in complex ways.
We are always already situated in an intersubjective (and therefore obviously
culturalised) spatio-temporal, fleshy world prior to taking up a personal position in
it. Further, nothing determines us from outside or inside, because from the outset we
are already outside, thrown open to our surrounding, in a semi-determinate but
constant coition with things. There is, in the last analysis, only this incarnate
communication, the natural cultural momentum of existence, the unmotivated
upsurge of being, of which the body and its environment are always moments.
Therefore as human beings we are never merely factual things, but neither are
we a bare transcendent consciousness. The world at home is both already
constituted and constantly in the process of becoming so. There are no immediate
givens in perception, because phenomena can only be phenomenal to the extent
that they are internally if mysteriously taken up by us, coalescing with the body, that
is as lived. Our human body with its habits, weaves things into a human and
inanimate environment (just as the other animals do in theirs) and into an infinite
number of possible environments, thereby showing itself as much more than mere
physical life. That said, it must also be noted, that there is not one aspect of human
cultural configuration or behaviour that does not owe something to natural
existence, that is not bound up with the rest of the intersensory environs.
The natural is indeterminate, while at the same time being the most intimate
feature of ones incarnate situation for example, as a young Asian male, a disabled
adolescent girl and so on, as well as commuter, scientist, bricklayer, pianist and the



rest. While at the level of social discourse it may not be useful to speak of
masculine and feminine in terms of the fixed anatomical and biological structures
of sexual bodies, nonetheless since the living out of gender is motivated by
ambiguous natural cultural structures of the body (that is, motivations in
Merleau-Pontys sense) there is, as Bigwood and Irigaray argue, a certain continuity
in the linking of gender to the body. The pathways we carve out in the course of
daily living are faithful to a certain enduring bodiliness that coheres across cultures
without ever being identical, and yet our human existence is not an innate human
essence or structure guaranteed at birth, but must be continuously carved out from
one historical period to the next.
In the face of assertions regarding the plasticity of the body and gendered
identity, I think it is important to understand that even though the bodys
organisation is not fixed, neither is it completely contingent and arbitrary. It is not
the case that the bodys phenomenological structure depends only on that which
we take a conscious decision to make significant, or on that which we are in a
position to manipulate as we desire. The sexual body for example has a phenomenal
organisation which can be regarded as arbitrary only if an abstract biological view of
the body is taken in the first place. By this I mean the tendency to consider body
parts as isolable pieces of matter and ignoring their actual living functioning as a
unity. The parts of the body grasped phenomenologically are constantly, and in
patterned form, integrated into functional totalities, into distinctive ways of
patterning our surroundings. Human functions are integrated into intersensory and
motor syntheses in such a manner that our bodily composition maintains an
indeterminate and fluid constancy. Thus everything in the human body is both
necessity and contingency, precisely because human existence is the perpetual
transformation of contingency into necessity, and the dissolution of the latter into
the former.
Creatures in their places
In the Platonic version of rationality, the realm of the body, of the senses and nature,
of flux and becoming, was but a pale shadow of the real. Variations of rationality
throughout the Western intellectual tradition have undoubtedly been contextdependent, as Weber noted, and therefore have taken different forms in different
historical periods.24 But what all have had in common is a tendency to dispense with
feelings and emotions, these being exclusively associated with the body. Thought as
decision-making, choice, calculation and above all as deliberation is ranged against
corporeally grounded emotion. Culture regarded as the outcome of deliberative
rationality and individual purposiveness (and of course not all cultures are regarded
as such) thus stands in opposition to irrationality, the body and to nature conceived
as the non-human and inanimate. Now it is not only bodies which are the products of
science, technological interventions and representations, but the whole of the
previously natural world. Remaining within a dualistic framework, the sociologist



Melucci claims, there is no longer either body or nature out there since both are
defined entirely within culture. He identifies a great paradox of the present time in
which nature is no longer generally recognised as such; on those occasions when we
do deal with it, it is only that nature which through political reasons we have decided
to respect and maintain or, more commonly, to change.25
Meluccis target is the application of a technocultural form of rationality which
has penetrated that previously conceived of as nature, what used to be out there
distinct from the social world of human invention.26 All of nature, including those
aspects of human beings previously referred to as natural or biological, including of
course bodies, has now been brought within the purview of discursive explanation
and thus subjected ever more intensely to forms of discipline and control. Even
those parts of the world formerly regarded as wilderness have been subjected to
categorisation and control, rendered, that is, into an arena for manipulation. All the
more reason then to think of the human subject as mere cultural construct, he
worries. This way of thinking about human beings is highly problematic because it
seems to relegate the creatural to a shadow world. Indeed the world of political
jurisdictions and reified economies now appears to constitute all of reality.
However, I think that the idea of culture in some way swallowing up nature as is
suggested by Melucci is a misconception which tends to re-instate an older
nature/culture division. If we want to avoid this particular dualism then we need to
understand, as Dewey did, that the two are not different in kind, but rather culture is
an expression of those biological processes which occur without goal or intent and is
nothing but a continuation of and organisation of such processes. Feminists such as
the environmental philosopher Valerie Plumwood are, in my view strengthened in
their critique of present environmental attitudes and practices by this manner of
conceiving the continuity, not disjunction, between the natural and social.
Plumwoods work is particularly interesting in this exploration of the creatural
because she avoids romanticising the natural and uses well known philosophical
tools to elaborate a theory of what I think of as ecological subjectivity. Working
within a familiar tradition she provides an alternative version of rationality, one
which I think is defensible because it holds the promise of helping us live as
coherent and minimally conflicted beings, with desires enough in harmony with
what can be hoped and wished for, and a life in which action can satisfy enough of
those desires in terms of the kind of beings we are that is, as creatures.27 The
creatural theme arises in her work as a detailed and comprehensive account of
integrity, cohesion and survival of organisms human and non-human. As
Plumwood acknowledges, hers is a quasi-Aristotelian concept which makes
rationality a matter of balance, harmony and reconcilability among an organisms
identities, faculties and ends, a harmony that takes into account the kind of being it
is. She argues that since we are indeed embodied and ecological beings, our
rational lives must involve some kind of compatibility with the biological systems
which support those lives. I would argue further that there needs also to be a fuller
articulation, especially in education, of the intimacy and complexity of the relations



that have always existed between animals (human and non-human) and the
inanimate, our technological companions in our various projects, including those
aimed at revitalising and rescuing land, water and air.
The phenomenological account of bodies provides a persuasive and nuanced
account of intelligent embodiment but also furnishes a view of corporeal
subjectivities as embedded within their environment, that is as ecological subjects
intentionally attached to place. All bodies are instances of being as universal
dimensionality, in which the postures and initiatives of bodies interact with the
environment as those bodies understand it. Bodies therefore have their world
without recourse to the symbolic or objectifying function. For me this is an essential
insight which educators need to grasp. Whether temporarily forgotten as Leder
demonstrates, or ignored (that is, discursively submerged), bodies continue to have
that world. It is the body (not simply a guiding consciousness) that understands its
world, and it is the body which holds within it those intentional threads that run
outward to the world: the bodys grasping of the world is like a set of invisible but
intelligent threads streaming out between body and the specific world with which
each body is familiar.
Bodies themselves are lived experience and although these experiences are
discursively mediated it remains true that it is each and every body which undergoes
experience. Further, each has a grasp of the world which cannot be properly
captured in such rationalistic formulations as cognitive maps. Cognition cannot act
as a kind of screen to the world rather the world is the bodys directly. As we shall
see further on, the body is always in its particular place. So the bodys lived
experience is that of location precisely because its language is that of gestures,
movement and action. In Merleau-Pontys account of the body-subject, experience
in every instance is constituted, located within and as the subjects incarnation.
Commenting upon Merleau-Pontys contribution to our understanding of
embodiment, Kathryn Vasseleu depicts his view of the nature of experience as
something that is transversal in that it can only be grasped as that which occurs, so
to speak, between mind and body, or more accurately across them in their lived
In his last and incomplete work The Visible and the Invisible, Merleau-Ponty
deploys the term flesh to describe essentially the phenomena of the subjects
simultaneously perceiving and of being perceived, of reciprocal tactile contact or
mutual comingling of all objects in the world, human beings in particular.29 While
his earlier work The Phenomenology of Perception had dealt with the intermingling
of subject and world (intelligent embodiment), in the final work he examined the
interrelationship of the criss-crossing of the touching and the tangible, the seer and
what is seen. What Merleau-Ponty demonstrated with remarkable clarity is the
indeterminacy of the boundaries of each of the senses, their inherent transposability.
This recalls my discussion in the latter part of Chapter 1 in which I identified the
problem of the way that the senses were separated in traditional views of human
behaviour and the ramifications of this for education. Merleau-Pontys account of



the body-subject demonstrates the openness of subject to world through an

engagement with it that is multisensorial. Further his account of subjectivity allows
us to glimpse that non-entitative, non-identical materiality which is shared by all
subjects and objects of perception. Subjects and objects are inherently open to each
other, for they are constituted in the one stroke separating the fabric of the world
into its distinctive modalities. A conception of subject as ecological needs as its
ground the understanding that all individual perspectives intersect in that same
world as parts of its fabric.
The notion of an ecological subject seems to me to suggest that education might
need to reorient itself, to overcome the remnants of a dichotomous view of the world
and to introduce the possibility of a non-anthropocentric perspective on being. The
latter would certainly provide a challenge, not least because it would demand that
the familiar category of other be extended to non-human and inanimate
environment. Yet the benefits would lie in having people better understand that their
actions (as consumers in particular, but also as citizens, workers and community
members) bring about reactions that are felt in other places, with serious
ramifications. Because, as Merleau-Ponty insists, our landscapes actually intersect
we must strive to have a better grasp of our role as co-participants and not only as
competitors. Such a task, it seems to me, is a central one for education.
Creatural agency
As an educator I want to fully acknowledge the human beings constructive and
creative capacities, but not by asserting the dominance of a certain view of mind or
thought over bodily existence. The latter obviously has an essential but limited
role. Along with Lakoff and Johnson, I wish to emphasise that both reason and
concepts are embodied that is, they do not in some sense belong to a separate
faculty but rather develop over time out of the individuals bodily capacities.
Mind, while directing and constructing both the present and future, is nonetheless
dependent upon and limited by the limitations the intelligence of the body-subject,
that is, by the limitations inherent in the human organisms bodily make-up as well
as by the specific environment in which he or she dwells, including, I would add, its
animate and non-animate furnishings. This perspective recognises the creatural
dimension of the human being in the sense I have described it: as a set of
multisensorial powers knowing a world which, while it limits and sometimes firmly
resists, is nevertheless shaped and altered in the service of human ends. Embodied
human experience thus consists of the interaction with its environment. This does
not amount to a repudiation of meaningful forms of human agency, but
demonstrates, rather, that such agency has its root in intelligised emotion and habit.
In this, Deweyan pragmatism, Merleau-Pontys phenomenology, and the cognitive
science of Lakoff and Johnson join to affirm the organic basis of human being and
to offer an adequate understanding of agency.33



For Dewey there were no sharp distinctions or dichotomies between the

experience of the individual and that which is not part of the individual bounded by
her skin. In his view there was no problem of the relation of physical and
psychic.34 Traditional dualisms of the philosophical tradition of which Dewey was
a staunch critic included the notorious but still highly influential ontological and
epistemological divisions between mind and body, and between knowledge and the
actual process of inquiry. Dewey insisted that the assumed clear distinctions
between thought and reality simply did not exist: there are no sharp breaks between
entities of various kinds; rather there is continuity with things fading into each other,
blending and melding.31 Ideas, theories can only provide a tentative glimpse of
reality, the philosophical tradition having greatly exaggerated the role of thought
which is in fact quite limited. Further, thought and reflection are not activities preeminently involving copying or reflection (some kind of mental mirroring) of an
external fixed reality. They only occur because of behaviour: in order to solve
problems and avoid danger, and of course to fulfil human desires. Put simply, our
thinking only takes place for the sake of our doing. As both Dewey and Nietzsche
emphasised, perception, thinking, reflection are bodily originating forms of activity
which assist the organism to respond intelligently to its environments, not some kind
of mysterious phenomena which exert a directing influence over material bodies
lodged in an entirely different realm. Thought is not only natural to experience but is
inherent within it.
This I think is a central insight with regard to human embodiment: matter and
experience are continuous; there is no bifurcation of the two, only a mutual interpenetration. In Deweys formulation expressed in the language of his day, experience
penetrates nature, reaching into its depths, expanding our understanding of it. The
well-known dichotomies of the physical and mental, and nature versus culture,
were the result of erroneously regarding primary (sensory) experience as crude or
primitive and therefore somehow inferior to the refinement of thinking, and
especially, to those abstractions that are regarded as cultural. The difference
between primary experience and reflection is simply one of degree, not kind the
former is the result of a minimum of reflection, while the latter is the outcome of
continual reflective inquiry and systematic thinking. Thus nature constantly streams
into and out of culture, the continuity being preserved between the world of the
natural and the world of culture.
It follows from this that new experiences or cognitions can never arise in
isolation. Rather they are events which take time and which are part of a continual
process; there are always myriad thoughts occurring as a sequence or train of
thought. Such trains of thought are not simply temporal conjunctions of distinctive
separate thoughts passing through the mind. On the contrary, they are relations of
states of mind (inferences) constituting the sequence that gives value to the
embodied individuals thoughts. Meaning thus is inextricably bound up with action,
and the latter with identity. To encapsulate: who I am is what I do (with what I have)
and what I do is what I mean. This presents subjectivity as that which we discover



over time through experience, through our interactions with the world, and in
particular through the interactions we have with other people (and I would add with
other species): the intersubjective relation, especially most particularly linguistic
communication. This sort of description suggests that agency may best be regarded
as always grounded in intersubjectivity and therefore cannot simply be a matter of
the individuals rational judgements about what are the best courses of action or
appropriate responses to events. It also suggests that agency only arises when we
understand and acknowledge the complex and multifaceted nature of our
embeddedness in the sensuous world.
Yet the distinction between physical and mental events is one that remains
essential to our understanding not only of ourselves as subject, but also to that which
we identify as going beyond the boundaries of the skin. Dewey certainly made such
a distinction but did so because he understood it to be that which allowed human
beings to regulate and control their experiential world. So the issue for Deweyan
pragmatism was not about how two completely different realms of existence can be
interactive but rather about why they are experienced as so differentiated. The
answer was one familiar to Nietzsche, but also to some contemporary cognitive
scientists and philosophers in order to have control over the physical it must be
distinguished from the mental, the key point being that this is a distinction only, not a
division into two separate and quite disparate realms of existence. Further, the
traditional distinction between primary experience (sensory or physical experience)
and what is characterised as genuine thought (the mental) would in fact be more
accurately thought of as a continuum: the distinction is merely relative and is also
instrumental. That cognitive activity to which Lakoff and Johnson refer in their
Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought
demonstrates this point: when we reason, we do not transcend our bodies, but
remain grounded within them, our thinking arising from the very peculiarities of our
animal embodiment.
Any notion of agency which does not take this into account is problematic
because it attributes to human beings an omniscient, spectatorial and transcendental
character beyond the body. Such a view of human agency posits an essentially
private consciousness set outside of the physical world. It ignores animality in
favour of a notion of the rational agent who is separated not only from other animals
but from its own animal nature. It can lead to what MacIntyre refers to as defective
modes of self-understanding and imagination arising directly from the forgetting of
the body, and can result in the delusion that our thinking, as human animals, is the
only form worthy of the name. Such modes cannot accommodate the complexities
that attend human choice, the difficulties in decision-making, and issues of context
and perspective in relation to the ways in which we actually solve problems. If all
knowledge is perspectival, then it seems clear that embodied knowers as agents must
acknowledge this perspectivity in relation to all their actions.
Dewey insisted that what we now call cognition is only one dimension of
experience. The intercourse of a living being with its environment includes



cognition but is by no means exhausted by it. Indeed Dewey threw into question the
way traditional philosophy has misrecognised the phenomenon of experience,
mostly often mistaking it for observation, and then as I demonstrated in Chapter 1,
allowing one of the senses, notably vision, to culturally dominate the others. In
examining the consumption of images I emphasised the way in which in present
social conditions we are increasingly caught up in a reality that is constituted by
information, much of which is visual in the form of images. Visual information
has therefore become the overriding resource in Western culture; daily life consists
of the consumption of varieties of symbols and the imagistic and linguistic
configuring of desire by a multiplicity of media. Because of this the perceptual and
cognitive and emotional realms of the individuals experience is configured in ways
that are different from earlier periods. This, as I believe Dewey understood, has
ramifications for human agency and must be a central educational concern.
Putting in place creatural education
Space and place are essential concepts to the understanding of human
embodiment and to the notion of creatural existence. They carry meanings that go
far beyond notions of boundaries, borders, territory, ownership and the like. The
notion of space as empty and non-solid, awaiting occupation, of space as relative
and of spatial relations as assigning position, whether architecturally, as a central
concept within physics, or in the social domain, and the idea of space as a
receptacle, are all familiar to modern thinking. Place, on the other hand, has had a
chequered history and, as Casey notes, a hidden one, despite the fact that more
recent theorisations can be traced back as far as to Aristotle. It is for example the
Aristotelian conception of place that Irigaray and other feminist philosophers have
drawn upon to articulate an ethics of sexual difference.30 A phenomenological
understanding of place, then, seems to have particular relevance for a conception of
creatural existence.
As the practico-sensory totalities that they are, bodies are aptly described as
being where there is something to be done, this something being the multitude of
diverse activities, both simple and complex, that make up the everyday practices
animating, connecting and reconnecting us to the many places in which we are to be
found throughout our lives. Such places are not merely those having a public
designation (downtown, a suburb or an area of countryside); they may in fact be the
most ordinary or even unprepossessing places. They are significant only in that they
are inextricably bound up with the practices of individuals and the meaning
conferred by those individuals. Lived bodies are themselves the dynamic bond to
place. Thus phenomenological place only has significance because it is experienced
by bodies. Such places are those in which we reside, work, entertain ourselves,
engage with our community and carry out the multiplicity of tasks, engagements
and, one hopes, enjoyments that constitute our lives. As Casey argues, our identity is
tied directly to our sense of where we are and what we are doing in a given spot.



Such a conception of place is strange perhaps because it does not seem to conform
to the more familiar notion of place as a certain space with a specific (public) name
and boundaries.
The understanding of phenomenological place arises directly from the realities of
embodiment. Bodies are always proto-places constituting each individuals corporeal presence here. This means that we are not simply in a particular place but
rather that it is we who constitute our own place through whatever it is that we do.
As human beings we cannot help but create place in each and every situation. So
whether we are seated at a computer in the workplace, exercising in the gym or
cooking a meal in the kitchen of our home we are implaced we are so, as
embodied individuals irrespective of who is with us, family friends or strangers.31
Even when we are in so-called open spaces or in the midst of a crowd we are in
place. People familiar or unfamiliar are nonetheless a part of an individuals
implacement, for whenever and wherever we are involved in any activity, alone or
with others, we are part of an implaced group of human beings. Each place and its
bodies manifests a particular vitality which that place holds us for the duration of a
human project. Although social differentiation in terms of status and authority, as
well as categorisations such as social class, race and gender will infuse meanings
generated in specific places and events, nonetheless it is clear that it is the
intersubjective relation which is central to the creation of a phenomenological sense
of place. Other individuals and their practice the intersubjective encounter link
me to my place, in the same way that my practice links them to theirs.
It seems to me that there is an important point here for the curriculum. It is that a
sense of place in the manner suggested can be nurtured across the curriculum so to
speak, by having groups of students involved in those activities which can engender
an awareness of shared implacement: for example, restoring environmentally
degraded areas, engaging in gardening programs, the caring for other species,
various kinds of community-linked activities. Place in this sense is really about
where there is something meaningful going on. Its patterns arise not from detailed
conscious planning but from the pre-reflective interaction of individuals who usually
remain unaware of the totality they have assisted in creating through their embodied
actions. The history of place becomes our history by virtue of the activities of our
implaced embodied practice, not because it is owned by this or that social group
and not because it is the nations or my property, someones territory or our land.
The phenomenological understanding of place challenges established ideas about
place as territory, region or nation which is central to much curriculum dealing with
the history of nations, the functioning of cultures and various kinds of social
Multidisciplinary curricula which emphasise the mutual caring for places can
help students to see that they share in a larger placed whole. Innovations in
geographical education in recent years have strongly supported the understanding of
how a heightened awareness of embodied existence and of community are grounded
in the sense of place. For example extending their earlier interest in movement, as in



studies of the motion of tides, the advance and retreat of animal species across
landscapes and the spread of plants and crops over time, geographers have been
especially interested in movement in terms of groups within and beyond their places.
Studies in human geography, but also in the field of history and related areas can
highlight bodies as the root of habitual movements of groups of people, demonstrating effectively the operation of the intentional body-force (each individual)
which sensitively manifests itself in ways that become automatic over long periods
of time. The arrival of groups of people at their destinations, the tasks carried out
together, can become the means of illustrating how the intelligence of each and
every body, through its intentional capacities, contributes to the building and
maintenance of communal life. Transformations of space into place (and
unfortunately the reduction of place to empty space as in the destruction wrought
by war or natural disaster), the demarcation, exclusions and containments effected
by authorities over populations or segments thereof, can show how certain notions
of space (as our place) can be used to both define, exclude and oppress. Those
aspects of contemporary curricula which deal with how power infuses certain
notions of place open students to an understanding that place is not just a linguistic
description but in fact is itself constituted through all manner of human practices.
Place is encultured and enculturation is a communal act, even if on specific
occasions, only I am present: since my actions are always already habitual at least to
some extent then they are also socially constructed in significant ways. But it is also
true that we partake of places in common with others irrespective of whether or
not they are actually co-present. This is how we make and remake community. The
culture that shapes and characterises a place is a shared culture shared by virtue of
our shared embodiment, including our technologies. So the view that a culture is
some sort of overarching entity, larger and more significant than the individual and
superimposed upon a particular defined and bounded territory, is inaccurate. But a
phenomenological view of place is not one that simplistically presents place as
merely natural. If places were nothing more than a particular space within the
natural world they would not play such a constitutive and integrating role in our
collective lives. In fact a given place is already culturally experienced and as such
insinuates itself into the collectivity, shaping, altering, modifying through the
practices of the collective embodiment.
Places thought of as where we belong or as home are frequently emotionally
contested and the relatively recent understanding of the significance of place to
indigenous peoples illustrates the point very well. Amongst Australias Indigenous
people, for example, there is a powerful emotional attachment to various places
which are deeply meaningful. However in the phenomenological sense of place
embodied implacement every person will have attachments to locations, simply
by virtue of the fact that as human beings they live their lives in one place or
another. Casey draws our attention to those who have no place, for example those
living on the street, the unemployed, who are unable to be at-home in any
meaningful sense and must move or be shunted from space to space, not inhabiting



in the deepest sense and refused the possibility of making places for themselves.
When the homes of various populations are deliberately destroyed by those in
authority or by an invading force there is a sense of violation that is profound
because it can also destroy the individuals deepest sense of being implaced.
Individuals in the course of living their lives are always implaced, irrespective
of whether they dwell for the moment in what has been called the public realm or
that of the private. The public places of cities and the places in which we work are
experienced not only visually but themselves actually incorporate physical and
mental structures. The notion of an ecological relation of selves to structures is
expressed by recognition that as human beings we measure space with our sounds,
caress the boundaries with our ears, conjure up images through smell and taste and
through grasping the weight and density of objects with our touching and seeing.
The ecological relation is expressed in the idea that while the body is projected upon
the world, that world is simultaneously reflected in the body. The real experience of
built environments offers a tactile as much as a visual encounter. Thus buildings that
have been experienced are no longer merely buildings, but inhabited space transcending geometrical space. In other words, they have become places.
Cities must figure prominently in discussions of sense of place today, and
because they may contrast markedly with the city, also the suburbs with their
hinterland, and further afield the countryside. All around the world cities now
represent symbolically everything that is desirable. Attracting many millions, they
offer the possibility of steady work if one is fortunate and has the right credentials.
They also present enormous opportunities for consumption of all kinds, provided
one has the money and access, social and other amenities, and has acquired the
markers of cosmopolitan identity. For many more it will merely be the place they
commute to and from to earn a living and from which they retreat to the suburbs at
the end of the working day. Cities offer bodily identifications with a built
environment, and depending on the city, some afford the same for the non-built:
parks, gardens, or even in some cases small wilderness areas. But the actual
implacement of individuals within these often goes unnoticed, unless it is directly
brought to attention. How we sense the breathing of trees in a park or trace the
texture of the inside walls of a building; how we inhabit with intensity the many
places of which we are temporarily a part, requires attending to our perception as we
go about our daily activities in various locations. These are matters deserving of
attention within the curriculum. One of the most important aims of curricula must
surely be to help offset the tendency to alienation from place that weakens a sense of
shared activity and destroys concerns for significant places.
The past few decades have seen a change in how the affluent world thinks about
childrens embodiment. Parents in particular, but also teachers, are positioned by a
range of health and educational discourses to closely scrutinise the bodies of
children and adolescents. Parents especially are made anxious when confronted with
dire predictions of serious illness, even premature death, if they do not intervene to
ensure the health and physical well-being of their offspring. Teachers may also be



drawn increasingly into the cycle of intervention in students lives in ways that focus
attention on bodies, as in the case of mandatory reporting of suspected sexual assault
on individual students.33 The dominance of discourses about what health is within
the education sphere can be seen in the attention given to issues such as low physical
fitness levels in both children and adolescents, obesity, claims and counter-claims
about the increase in the incidence of attention deficit disorder and depression in the
young, and of course the causes and treatment of child and adolescent drug
addiction. The assumptions regarding normalcy, adequacy and social performance
which often underlie these health and health-education discourses frequently remain
hidden at the same time as physical aspects are foregrounded. Yet the effect of
burying these assumptions can be far-reaching for the young, impacting not just on
their relationships with parents and relatives but also with the wider society.
Now although much of the surveillance of the bodies of the young in relation to
these very real problems is presented as an issue of care which a responsible
society must exercise over the younger generation, it can also be seen as an anxietyinduced reaction arising from complex social changes, including a shrinkage of the
sense of attachment to the wider community, a feeling perhaps that each young
person is, in the last analysis, up against a ferociously competitive and hostile world
and can only expect loyalty really from family members or perhaps a close friend.
Actually the degree of control that parents and others in positions of responsibility
exercise over children has markedly increased in recent decades and probably in
ways that would surprise many middle-class parents. This despite the fact that many
parents express the wish that their children will lead happy and fulfilled lives that
they will have fun as well as learn gradually to be responsible adults. After all,
children and adolescents appear to be exercising considerable responsibility in such
matters as selecting the schools they will attend, the clothes they will wear and
entertainment they will consume and so on. So for parents and teachers they appear
to be well on the road towards becoming autonomous persons. Indeed it may seem
to many parents and teachers that children have far greater opportunities for
developing a sense of independence and making choices than they themselves did
when young.
Yet this is not necessarily so. In fact the extent to which children are now
watched, scrutinised by adults is remarkable. This scrutiny, though fond, can also be
anxious and fearful. In Australia especially (though the phenomenon is also very
much apparent in many places around the world where there is considerable
affluence) children appear to be more closely guarded than at any time in recent
history. The reasons for this are complex and should not be oversimplified. Some
have to do with the reduction in family size amongst well-established and aspiring
middle-class parents: smaller families may mean that greater attention is focused
upon one or two children who bear considerable burdens psychologically to succeed
in every endeavour, but particularly in terms of academic and sporting performance.
The aspirations of middle-class parents to ensure that their children gain a head start



in a competitive educational and social environment impact upon offspring in a

multiplicity of ways of which many are negative.
But there are also certain features of contemporary social conditions which
doubtless also play a role in the changing level and kind of surveillance. One of the
most insidious in some of its effects is the widespread notion that the world beyond
the family is dangerous and can easily engulf children with catastrophic results.
Often a sense of community, if it exists at all, is limited and fragile, and does not
stand up well in the face of imagined threats from outside the home. This can lead to
restrictions on the embodiment of the young that may deny them the chance to
explore the world for themselves, to explore their own embodiment, to develop
curiosity, resilience and a certain robustness in moving about, understanding,
engaging with and appreciating their implacement in a wide variety of contexts.
Certainly children are being attended to, but perhaps it is not in ways that encourage
human flourishing. Confining younger children in particular can rob them of the
opportunities for just fooling around or hanging out. For example, the door-to-door
transport provided by middle-class parents for their offspring may actually convey
more about the adults own sense of isolation from the broader community (the fear
of others, the underclass, undesirables) than about the actual safety of their
children. Of course there are genuine dangers to the young, but they need to be
thought about in terms of the overall benefits that can be gained by allowing greater
access to a wider environment, both human and inanimate.
If I have correctly identified some of the key features of their creatural existence,
then there is surely a need to have the embodied subject engage with particular
environments in a positive and creative way. This not only affirms identity but can
also contribute to building what I call a stock of resilience which has physical,
emotional, social and ethical components. It is relatively easy under present social
conditions to induce a certain timidity in offspring; once established it is not easily
overcome. Often the resorting to increasing extracurricula activity for children and
adolescents reflects the fear that despite all the effort and expense something is
missing. Valuable though these activities may be in their own right, they may not
fulfil the same function as those freely chosen by the young in very simple, often
spontaneous ways with no prior organisation involved and no logistical planning on
the part of adults. I have in mind here activities such as exploration of the city with a
friend on the public transport system, or visits to wild places such as outer
suburban bushland areas or parks. Large numbers of children now face tighter and
more restrictive boundaries than in previous times. The suburbs were once the
special preserve of children and companion animals, constituting places in which
(often together) they sniffed, encircled, trespassed upon and revealed, gradually
uncovering the whole of a suburb and making it their own. Such experiences, neither
regulated nor policed, scarcely register as educational experiences in the larger view,
yet they can be of immense importance to the embodied life of the young.
As the geographer David Seamon pointed out some years ago, people feel regard
for their place because it is a part of who they are.34 It is of course difficult to feel



strong attachment to built environments if they are not amenable to human scaling,
that is, cannot really in some way be made part of the individuals or groups
implacement. Walking instead of being driven allows opportunities for adolescents
to explore their environment and their own bodys capacities and limit. Walking to
and from school is not simply a matter of going the direct route from home to the
school buildings: it is an opportunity to drop off and pick up friends, to play with
neighbourhood animals, throw pebbles into puddles, slip and slide on embankments,
and even in big cities, to impress footpath or sidewalk with imaginary markings,
creating fantasy places along the way. It is also an opportunity for the exploration of
human relationships and where possible getting to know those who may appear as
other to us. When children spend formative years being shepherded by adults,
bodily initiative and resourcefulness may well decline or in fact never be developed
in the first place. There may be unexpected consequences of a negative kind in adult
Often accompanying anxieties about the safety and security of offspring is the
fear of idleness. Extracurricula activities pack each individuals available hours:
music classes, football practice, tennis lessons and so on. These are undeniably
enriching and in many respects useful activities, but the manner in which they are
scheduled and the tyranny that they may exercise over the individual, the endless
demands on the available time of each person, may reveal an anxiety on the part of
parents that opportunities are being neglected. This can impact on the possibilities
for exploring creatural existence, especially aspects which permit them, in exploring
their implacement in the world, to give free reign to their exploratory and creative
capacities. Part of creatural existence that which we share with many other species
is an instinct to roam about, to explore our environment in all its dimensions. One of
the potentially important lessons that can be learned from such experiences is to
distinguish what we do actions we initiate from what merely happens to us: it
rains and our new clothes get wet, our favourite ice-cream shop closes down or the
movie we wanted to see is not showing at the local cinema. Such a distinction is
crucial for the development of a sense of effective agency in adult life.
In concluding this brief discussion of creatural existence I note again the
importance of information technology in childrens lives. Computer games are an
integral part of the understanding now of many young people, and there is great
sophistication in the design of games that allow children and adolescents to control a
virtual environment. Thus when they engage with computer games (as millions do),
individuals can command troops, blow up tanks and submarines, give orders that
disable or more likely execute the enemy and, much more rarely, direct and carry
out the rescue of innocents. In other words such games provide a sense of
omnipotence one can be the master not only of ones own fate but that of others.
Whereas in ordinary life the most power many young people will have is that they
can choose to change the brand of their jeans or decide what movie they will see.
This virtual experience of control can be a hollow one when in reality many of the
young do not even have the opportunity to actively explore their own environment.











There is not a single theory of rationality that has characterised Western thought in its long history.
The term cognitive rationality is associated with theories of mind, that is, with the development of the
logical structures of the intellect in the individual. Individuals are deemed rational by dint of their
cognitive activity which, characteristically, involves the construction of abstract concepts. This
version of rationality has been deeply influential in education, notably in theories of learning. The
other forms of rationality are instantiated in society itself as instrumental rationality, and juridical or
bureaucratic rationality the latter being most famously outlined by Max Weber. But there are various
versions articulated from differing standpoints; for example, the environmental philosopher Valerie
Plumwood identifies the following kinds of rationality operating in contemporary societies:
bureaucratic, economic, political, scientific and ethical-prudential. Although these forms may have
tensions between them, nonetheless they share the following features: a clear subject object
distinction epistemologically, a rejection of all that may appear personal in arriving at a position of
true knowledge, and a strong tendency to quantification methodologically.
My reference is not specifically to the work of Piaget here but rather to the uses to which his work
was put for many decades: in teacher education, for example, the form presented often constituted a
dangerous caricature of his work and implied that what mattered about the growing child was her
mental capacities, curiously divorced from her everyday embodied activity. This kind of
misrepresentation has now declined, but the tendency to see minds and bodies as separate lingers in
some quarters.
I refer to the highly influential work of Michael Apple in particular, but also that of Giroux and
McLaren and others on the hidden curriculum, as well as more broadly the whole sociology of
knowledge enterprise of the past forty years which had deep impacts not only in the British and
North American educational contexts but also in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other places.
Influences of Foucault on educational thinking have been considerable and the broader discursivist
framework has been strongly in evidence in analyses of the social construction of subjectivities,
knowledge and schooling.
This is a very broad claim and I am aware of the differences in the extent of embodied involvement
in primary and secondary education, in specific curriculum areas, but also amongst different kinds of
school and the range of variations in teachers classroom practices.
For a succinct account of the distinction between discursive and practical consciousness see Iris
Marion Youngs Justice and the Politics of Difference, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990,
Chapter 5 The Scaling of Bodies, p. 131.
Palasmaa, op. cit., p. 45. I do not claim that gaining access to the corporeal basis of dispositions
formation is easily achieved. The demands of the curriculum, the priority given to preparation for
public examinations and the importance of gaining marks that will eventually lead to the desired
goals (university entry, gaining of scholarships etc) mean that there is little time to even thinking
about such issues. Nonetheless, whether learning is directly or indirectly somatic, there is the effect
of societys ingraining into bodies patterns of movement, perception and feeling, all of which involve
the inscription in flesh, muscles, skeleton and neurons. Teachers need to be encouraged and then
helped in their efforts to think deeply and critically about this dimension of the classroom encounter.
See Grosz, Elizabeth, Becoming...An Introduction, pp. 1-11 in Becomings. Explorations in Time,
Memory and Futures ed, Elizabeth Grosz, Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1999. see also











her most recent work The Nick of Time. Politics, Evolution and the Untimely. Sydney: Allen and
Unwin 2004.
Bergson quoted in Grosz, op. cit., Ch. 2, pp 15-128.
These patterns encompass dispositions that grow within individuals and are as much physical and
affective as they are mental. I discussed these more fully in Chapter 5 with relation to citizenship.
For an excellent account of direct somatic learning, see Chapter 7 of Brian Fay's Critical Social
Science, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987.
I do not interpret Latour to mean that technology, machines attain subjectivity in the manner of
humans. There is ample evidence in his work to support my interpretation that he is not denying the
purposiveness of all human activity.
It is this understanding of Nietzsche that has been taken up and developed by discursivists, most
notably by Foucault, and has over the past two decades been utilised very effectively to critically
analyse issues of power, knowledge and the curriculum as well as the social inscription of the bodies
of students.
For an interesting commentary on Nietzsches discursivist credentials and his naturalism see
Richard Shusterman Somaesthetics and the Body/Media Issue, in Body and Society, 3(3),
September 1997, pp 33-49.
See Hlne Cixous, Alterite: Being Human in French Women Philosophers: A Contemporary
Reader, London: Routledge, 2004, pp 191.
Refer to my comments on the importance of Butlers work on the body in the previous chapter. See
also Butler, Judith The Psychic Life of Power Theories in Subjection, Stanford CA: Stanford,
University Press, 1997.
Marcel Mauss 1973 [1935], Techniques of the Body, Economy and Society, 2(1), pp 70-88.
Edward S. Caseys account of getting back into place is elaborated in the following works: i. Getting
Back Into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World
Bloomington &
Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993, and ii. The Fate of Place A Philosophical History,
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. For an excellent discussion of the under-theorised
nature of themes of space and place in the human sciences see Chapter 1, The Dialectics of
Globalisation in John Rennie Shorts Global Dimensions: Space, Place and the Contemporary
World, London: Reaktion Books, 2001.
Bigwood presents a detailed and illuminating analysis in her paper titled Re-naturalising the Body
(with the Help of Merleau-Ponty) in Body and Flesh. A Philosophical Reader, edited by Donn
Welton, Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.
Bigwood, op. cit., pp 104-105.
Bigwood, ibid, p. 107.
Discourses such as race, gender, disability can be seen to intersect in a particular embodied
Fleshy meaning a material world.
The issue of the absence of the body from awareness during many daily activities is compellingly and
comprehensively explored by Drew Leder in his work on the absences of the body in everyday life.
However my insistence that the body is absent from so much of educational theory and practice
(including from the curriculum) is not based on the kind of everyday forgetting explored so delicately
by him, but rather on a forgetting at the level of discursive consciousness and by means of somatic
blind spots which seem to arise from certain kinds of theorising in education. Nevertheless Leders
work provides major insights on matters of bodily awareness. He acknowledges that our bodily



presence is of an extremely paradoxical kind. See Drew Elder, The Absent Body, Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press, 1990.
24. See in particular Webers classic account of rationality in modernity as described in Poole, R.,
Modernity, Rationality and The Masculine in Feminine, Masculine and Representation, eds T.
Threadgold & A. Cranny-Francis, Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1990, pp 48-61.
25. For a distillation of this issue see the Epilogue in Melucci, Alberto, The Playing Self. Person and
Meaning in the Planetary Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp 144-154.
26. Melucci, op.cit., p. 150.
27. See Plumwood, Valerie, Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason, London:
Routledge, 2002.
28. For a detailed and comprehensive account of Merleau-Pontys very specific view of embodied
experience in relation to the flesh see Vasseleu, Cathryn, Textures of Light: Vision and Touch in
Irigaray, Levinas and Merleau-Ponty, London & New York: Routledge, 1998, Part II, Carnal
Light, pp 19-72.
29. Merleau-Ponty, M. The Visible and the Invisible translated by Alphonso Lingis. Evanston, Illinois:
Northwestern University Press, 1968.
30. For an insightful discussion of Irigarays position and that of other contemporary thinkers on space
see Chapter 12, Giving a Face to Place in the Present. Bachelard, Foucault, Eleuze and Guatarri,
Derrida, Irigaray in Casey, op. cit., pp 285-330.
31. For an interesting and perceptive account of the distinctions Dewey made regarding experience and
knowledge see Wheeler, Kathleen M., Romanticism, Pragmatism and Deconstruction, London:
Blackwell, 1993, p. 98.
32. See Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M., Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to
Western Thought. New York: Basic Books, 1999.
33. This is a practice that most people would find of considerable value as it may be the only means of
bringing to light what has been happening to victims. Nevertheless it does involve certain processes
of surveillance of student bodies and does place added responsibilities upon teachers.
34. See David Seaman, A Geography of the Lifeworld London, Croom Helm, 1979.


The idea of bodies that labour has largely disappeared from the discursive
landscape in recent times.1 Grounded solidly in an agricultural and later an industrial
age, much of the manual labour of the past is seen as something that at least in the
post-industrial world has been superseded by very different kinds of work practices,
with mind work now occupying significant sections of populations. This does not
mean that physical labour as it was previously understood no longer exists, merely
that the bodies that sweated and strained to excavate, build, carry, forge and craft are
much less in evidence. There is obviously more work being carried out in the world
than ever before and also much more preparation for such work. But it is also more
difficult to represent that work in ways that will identify it as such. There is an
extraordinary variety in the kinds of work for which people are paid, just as there is
in unpaid work. The strutting of fashion models on the catwalk, the child-care centre
employee settling her charges down for an afternoon nap, the film critic viewing the
latest Hollywood movie and the volunteer collecting donations for charity in a mall
are remote from the vision of the toiling of field or factory worker of earlier
generations. This fading from our awareness of a certain understanding of labouring
bodies is accompanied by certain abstractions, descriptions of workers as human
resources or assets for employers. Such terms seem in themselves to perpetuate the
tendency to forget working bodies. It downplays the fact that no matter what their
work, individuals do not somehow divest themselves of their corporeality as,
implaced, they labour in an endless variety of ways.
In this chapter I will explore that aspect of embodiment, which the human
species recognises as work. The complexities of attempting a definition of work are
well known and formidable. It is not my intention to mount a detailed historical
analysis of what has counted as work in the past but merely to note that various
discourses continue to influence contemporary notions of work. Since the most
recent wave of feminism, important discussions of work have revolved around the
issues of paid and unpaid work, the latter identifying labour involved in child-raising
and housework as key issues in debates about equality of opportunity and
participation in the paid workforce. At the most general level of definition, work is
practice. But it is self-evident that there can be no satisfactory generic concept of
work that does not look at the precise social and political arrangements and
especially power relations under which particular kinds of human practice have




taken place and will continue to do so. Human beings have been constantly engaged
in work, sometimes against their own wishes, at other times, as poorly paid wagelabourers. The picture is complicated by the fact that what is work in one context
may not be regarded as such in another. In a complex world some people will be
paid a wage for carrying out specified tasks but others doing the same work may
not.2 As well, there is the work of reproducing the next generation, undeniably a
kind of labour which confirms our creaturely existence in the most fundamental
Work has a history in different cultures and different historical periods within
those cultures.3 One of the most enduring aspects cross-culturally has been the
division of labour based on gender and social status, and the relegation of entire
groups of people as the living tools of others (who laboured mostly with the
intellect), the most extreme example being that of slavery and later in the West,
serfdom. For the most part, the arduous and unpleasant work has historically been
reserved for those with least power. This is still the case. But individuals have also
suffered in performing work which they were not forced by others to do, but rather
felt compelled by their own deep desire to create, invent and discover. Some have
tried to do as little work as necessary for survival; many more have striven to
generate work not only for themselves but large numbers of others. In addition to
paid work people have developed hobbies they work at assiduously and which are
every bit as demanding as their jobs. There is a vast amount of non-paid work in the
community carried out by thousands of voluntary workers. Clearly the work ethic
is alive and flourishing in many parts of the world.
Yet under present conditions of consumer capital and extraordinary technological change, work for increasing numbers of people is so changed as to be almost
unrecognisable to previous generations. This is a source of celebration for many, but
one of deep anxiety for others. Nevertheless work continues to be regarded not only
as a means of earning a living but also as self -creating activity, that is, as a primary
means of human fulfilment, and by some at least, as an expression of creativity. The
preparation of individuals for the world of work figures prominently as an aim of
schooling and higher education. Discursively the productive member of society is
reflexively constructed and enacted through such frameworks as those of politics,
psychology, economics, human resources and a great many others. It lies at the heart
of contemporary conflicting discourses about employment, the health or otherwise
of national economies, participation in voluntary community work, the welfare state,
enterprise bargaining in industrial relations, housework and a host of other areas of
social life. While there will be differing emphases on the criteria for assessing what
is involved in being productive, almost all will assume that work in some form is
central to an individuals social contribution.
But if work is a constant in the account of human embodiment, then it is not
unproblematically so. For it seems to me that among other problems work



encounters in contemporary life is the role it can play in intensifying the flight
from the creatural body. This may occur partly because the jobs that large numbers
of people now carry out are of the service kind that do not generate a product in
the traditional sense, but rather offer less tangible outcomes such as making clients
feel comfortable, or providing opportunities for customers to air grievances.
Here the work is distinctly creaturely but its creaturely dimension receives little
recognition and its embodied character remains discursively submerged. The flight
from the body may also have hastened some forms of technological change that
have swept through a huge range of industries, and while not rendering the ways of
working redundant, has nevertheless completely altered their mode of operation. The
issue of work in the lives of individuals and communities is to my thinking a major
one for education, complicated by the fact that due to technological change only a
minority of people may be in a situation where they can clearly identify, so to speak,
the fruits of their labour. The work many individuals perform is often of the kind
that, because of its very nature, does not fulfil the rather lofty ideal of affording
opportunities for being creative, and fostering self-expression, no matter how much
we try to glamorise it.
To address the issue of the productive activities of bodies is to cross discursive
fields encompassing often contradictory conceptions of work itself, for example the
distinction made between paid and unpaid work, particularly domestic work, but
also of differing notions of what is involved in production of material objects and
symbolic products of various kinds. The idea of a labour market as a fundamental
institution of capitalist societies is the major understanding of the manner in which
workers in search of a wage are brought together with capitalists in search of employees.
But in consumer capitalism, production and consumption are inseparable, generating
complexities of purpose in the pursuit of employment and economic advancement
on an unprecedented scale. In examining the functioning of work in the life of
embodied individuals consumption in all its forms needs to be understood, not least
because it is seen increasingly as the primary reason why large numbers of people
strive relentlessly to improve their position in the workforce. Historically the notion
of production is itself embedded within a variety of discursive frameworks, amongst
the most influential being modernist and Marxist notions of the reproduction of the
Drawing upon Deweys work, Nell Noddings notes that finding the right
occupation is one key to human happiness but that there has been in recent times
failure to understand that different kinds of work suit different people; and that
current educational policy in the United States seems to have forgotten this.4 She
suggests that a much broader definition of work is needed. Deweys own writing on
work began from the broadest possible perspective when he argued that the ultimate
problem of production was the production of human beings: the reproduction of
the human species itself.5 The notion of producing bodies had two meanings, he
wrote: that of the natural or physical processes of the reproduction of the human
species, and those varieties of productive labour known in his day, human beings



engaged in to transform the material world and create cultural life. Keeping in mind
the economic, social and political circumstances of the times in which he wrote, it is
not surprising that Dewey was keenly interested in human labour generally, its
purposes and prospects under the conditions of the social and economic conditions
of his time.
Deweys references to production encompass all the different kinds of practice
which not only furnished a living for the individual and families but which were in
his view a fundamental expression of the creativity of the human being. But he
reminded his readers of the need to pay critical attention to the social, political and,
above all, economic environment of human production. This is of particular
relevance in view of present conditions, notably those of abundance for some under
consumer capitalism, relegation to the ranks of the working poor for many, and
downright impoverishment for others, including those who labour in less-developed
countries for low wages to provide goods for consumers for the post-industrialised
world in a time of unprecedented economic growth. Of particular interest is the fact
that under post-industrial conditions of work, while labouring bodies of the older
kind are now much rarer than they were in the pre-industrial world, they are
nonetheless to be found in large numbers in developing countries. Meanwhile, in
those countries of greatest consumption, bodies are now curiously situated with
regard to work, being on the one hand unavoidably workers of some kind or other,
but not necessarily producing anything except information and the virtual. Then
there are those whose chief work consists of producing their own bodies as items of
cultural consumption for others.
My specific intent in this chapter is to explore functioning of the body in
relation to the theme of work. In light of symbolic production I referred to in
Chapter 1, I see a need to attend to questions about how embodied individuals stand
in relation to production and consumption, and how production and consumption are
involved as work, in the lives of populations. Much has been written about
education for working life and the challenges to earlier notions of human work of
recent times. I do not intend to canvass such views in detail here, but want rather to
examine more specifically what happens to bodies under newer work orders and
how the multisensoriality of bodies is (or is not) engaged in contemporary work
situations. My particular interest lies in how bodies may be forgotten or become
absent in the kinds of work processes that are increasingly common and in the
understandings of varieties of human activity, which in previous times may have
been called labour or work. In following the line of exploration that I do, I may
appear to be indulging in some form of glorification of vigorous physical labour for
its own sake, harking back to a time and situation in which the masses toiled in
unrelenting grimness, in the way modernist discourses of one kind or other idealise
such labour. So I want to make clear at the very outset that my intention is not to
reinstate an outmoded notion of the value of hard labour. But I do want to raise
certain issues about the impact of technology on what Dewey called the production
of human beings, and the manner in which information technology in particular has



affected the role and functioning of bodies in work. It is necessary, therefore, that I
take a critical stance on questions of the corporeality of work practices.
Working bodies in contemporary life
For Dewey, the production of free human beings associating with one another on
terms of equality was the aim of all social activity. Education and work and the
relationship between the two were thus significant themes examined in his work, as
were the conditions under which workers could satisfy both the need of industry and
their markets, at the same time satisfying their own desire to carry out activity that
was both productive and personally fulfilling. Hence his interest in the security of
workers, their involvement as constructive interest in the work they do. Addressing
the educators of his day, he asked what gain had been made in giving the great mass
of individuals an opportunity to find themselves, and then to educate themselves for
what they can best do in work that is socially useful in order to give free play in their
own development. The best educators, he believed, were aware of the need to
discover the vocational and occupational abilities of the individuals they taught, as
well as the need to read just the school system to build upon what they had
discovered. But as Dewey realised, the real problem lay in the attempt to adjust
individual capacities and their development to the actual occupations existent at the
time. He argued that it was a matter of the state of existing occupations, that is, of
the set-up of productive work in its entirety and the the structure of the industrial
system to match talents with available jobs so that whatever the social
circumstances and the economic system, there would ultimately be appropriate work
for all: if the processes of preparation for work were more comprehensive and
searching, there would be an opportunity for all people to use their gifts and the
education they had obtained. Despite the enormous social and economic changes
that have occurred since the time of Deweys writing I think there remain important
issues, especially under post-industrial conditions.
Dewey made an interesting distinction between the planned society the obvious
examples being the fascist and communist of his day and what he conceived as the
continuously planning society involving the release of intelligence through the
widest form of co-operative interchange.6 The freest possible play of intelligence is
required in genuine social organisation and association, an ideal that we might see as
having declined in recent years in many parts of the world. For Dewey, if social
planning was to have any chance of success, then it had to allow the operation of
intelligence in this way. With the benefit of hindsight it must be acknowledged that
since Deweys time the world has become a very different place. This has meant
among other things, that the older version of the embodied worker has declined
significantly, indeed is no longer to be encountered in very many workplaces. There
exists now a set of vastly changed social and economic conditions that include a
complete transformation of the ways in which the products generated in relatively
stable circumstances of workplace hierarchies once produced identities that were



stabilised as class categories, as workers or owners of the means of production.

Moreover such identities by virtue of their positioning also furnished a well-defined
consumer base. This older capitalism which Dewey recognised, was about the
production of commodities sold as standardised products to masses of people who
themselves were, in an important sense, standardised as modernist subjectivities
including, for the majority, labouring embodied selves. The situation has been
radically transformed in recent times.
The idea that there are new people or new forms of subjectivity generated
through the changed organisational systems and work practices of fast capitalism
has become widespread in the past decade. New work practices place demands upon
individuals to live out the various expectations that others around them will have
of them as workers. This will include the requirement to take responsibility for their
own activities within the workplace (whether or not this is realistic or even
possible), to demonstrate (sometimes in quite spectacular fashion) truly valiant
efforts in carrying out all tasks irrespective of magnitude and availability of
resources, and to exhibit entrepreneurial behaviour whatever the task. The
entrepreneurising of all jobs seems to be aimed at achieving ownership of each
and every task no matter how large or how inconsequential. The viability of the
new kind of worker and her survival in the system is deeply dependent upon her
incorporation of the companys or institutions goals, values and vision into her very
identity as worker. When a companys productivity relies on the organisations
ability to adapt to changing market conditions, then workers must similarly be
attuned and adaptive. Thus the major discourses about the workplace have
deliberately forged strong connections with newer ideas about education and
learning. Indeed a good deal of the impetus for the notion of lifelong learning has
come from the transformed workplace in which individuals are expected to
wholeheartedly embrace change not only in what they do but also in what they take
themselves to be.
The workplace learning-new subjectivities nexus has frequently been cast in
terms of the generation of empowerment within corporations and recently
corporatised institutions. The notion that individuals who are in control are owners
of themselves and their work and have an eye always to the changing demands of
markets, thereby learning throughout their lives, has become a commonplace. It is to
be found in universities as well as international corporations. But the actual content
of this learning often remains unexplained. Interestingly, although it is an influential
aspect of a set of discourses about new times; fast capitalism in its language
appears to owe more to older discourses of emancipation. With its emphasis on the
power to be grasped by the worker, it seems to be suggesting a kind of freedom that
had actually originated in modernist or enlightenment accounts of self and agency.
But it can equally be regarded as part of contemporary discourses about the
successful workers identification with the vision or core values of the organisation. As Gee Hull and Lankshear pointed out several years ago, such discourse may
simply function as a means of making individuals alone responsible for themselves



(and all that might happen to them) in a rapidly altering world.7 In this manner the
responsibility for the health and well-being of employees (psychological and
emotional as well as physical) can simply be downplayed or in some cases ignored
by management.
In reality it is the body of the individual worker that bears the brunt of the
pressure not only to be productive (whatever that may mean to a specific industry,
company or institution) but also to forge an employee identity governed by the
imperatives of growth and constant adjustment to change. In this, the fact of
workers embodiment disappears especially, I argue, in those enterprises in which
there has been a transformation from material processes of production (say bricks
and mortar) to that of information and ideas. Actual bodily limitations to the
demands placed by employers on workers, which were obvious in the older
workplaces (workers could only handle so much before they became ineffective or
ill, or they died) are no longer visible and can therefore be easily ignored both by
management and by workers themselves. This occurs, it seems to me, precisely
because of the discursive nature of the position that holds that there can actually be
no substantive constraints on the production of new ideas, ever-expanding desires,
new customer populations, products and services, and above all on the everexpanding demands of the markets. Essential to this also is the assumption that
technology has rendered what previously seemed to be finite resources infinitely
expandable. Mind workers especially a rapidly expanding group in the workforce
may be relatively easily persuaded to forget the body as they manufacture identities
through their central role in the endless circulation of symbol and image.8 Emotional
work of which there can be vast amounts to be carried out, depending on the
workplace and the people involved, is notoriously difficult to quantify and so will
not be counted in the assessment of workers effectiveness and productivity.9
Older conceptions of work characteristic of modernity and the consolidating
phase of capitalism, carried notions of job security and tenure. The new discourses
reinforce the shift to contract labour and the view of the new kind of worker as an
independent entrepreneur who contracts out his or her work but of whom it is
demanded that while occupying a particular position within the corporation they also
be a team-player. The new worker is assumed to be not only fully informed but
also fully operant within the specific corporate or institutional culture. Diversity and
above all freedom are said to characterise the contemporary economic order, at
least for those in specific highly skilled jobs. The texts which constitute the new
workplaces foreground notions of liberation, empowerment, trust, vision, selfdirected learning, collaboration and others that have been torn from their anchoring
in previous discursive formations and have now assumed different status and
meanings. The workplace is the domain in which freedom is now achieved.
Moreover the workplace and its discourses is that arena in which not only products
are manufactured, but most importantly attitudes and expectations.
What therefore can be said of human embodiment in such altered work



It would be nave and wrong to claim that workers as embodied subjects do not
experience themselves as such, even within the new kinds of workplace. Nor can it
be denied that the experiential field in which the body articulates itself through
implacement (in Caseys sense) is only a material or physical one.10 Nevertheless
the power of the new workplace discourses goes beyond the experiential forms,
submerging them. Therefore such discursive power must be clearly understood,
because what it shows is the rendering of the body of the worker as docile in a
Foucauldian sense. In other words the body is relevant as an active plasticity
available to be disciplined, deciphered, technologised and inscribed as an individual
relationship to those specific normative discursive formations that are institutionally
or corporately produced and administered. These normative discourses set out the
range of capacities of workers and the new expectations: in this way the experiential
body is overwritten by discourses. But while this power, through discursive means,
may function to separate the subject from the realities of embodiment (its very
condition of existence), precisely because it attempts to put out of bounds the
experiential grounds of knowing, it can never totalise the body or practice within its
discursive realm. In other words there is always a materiality made explicit and
present that exceeds discursive boundaries during human practice. The body, while
being done to, remains capable at least of doing that is, of agency.
The production of different bodily forms has been central to theories of social
reproduction, which present them in a context of class relations. Bourdieu in
particular was concerned with the symbolic value which specific bodies or kinds of
bodies carried.11 The instrumental body of the working class (both male and
female, though in different ways) does not lack symbolic value and in the case of
men it was strength and musculature that was often portrayed. Nevertheless, for
Bourdieu, the dominant classes were able to exert hegemony over this process and to
produce bodily forms of the highest value. In the context of this exploration of
embodiment it is worth noting the particular aspects of the male workers body that
were valued. Great emphasis was given to muscularity, strength, stamina and
endurance, and in some contexts agility. These and newer characteristics such as a
certain attention to grooming, are features now more likely to be presented for
scrutiny on billboards, mens magazines or in television advertisements, advertising
everything from shaving cream to underwear. The qualities previously regarded as
proof of a male workers capacities to labour are in a new discursive landscape
valued as ideals of attractiveness and virility, irrespective of ones class positioning.
As part of the scopic regime they encapsulate ideals of masculinity. Thus although
there remain kinds of work that call for physical strength or skill, the representation
of strong or muscular bodies is just as likely to signify health, strength and care of
the body for its own sake, as it is to indicate attributes required for a particular kind
of job.
As I have noted in earlier chapters, concerns about the body are not new. The
fear of and contempt for the body that Nietzsche identified as characteristic of the
culture of his time, and of the philosophical tradition, remain, but in certain respects



are heightened and made more complex under contemporary social conditions. For
although on the one hand bodies are now readily available for our scrutiny, entertainment and titillation, such bodies are less commonly assessed now for their
capacity to demonstrate through strength their capacity for work. In very many
areas of work there is no longer any need for this, whereas in others such as the
beauty and fashion industries, the kind of body that is demanded is one that
conforms fairly strictly to norms. As I remarked in my discussion of the scope
regime in Chapter 1, the corporeal disengagement from the world of flesh and blood
is perhaps nowhere more obvious than in the continuing disinvestment of the work
that once belonged to bodies, to muscles, limbs and most especially to hands.
Technology has relieved increasing numbers of us of the need to engage with the
world in ways that our ancestors did and for many of us that is certainly a cause for
heartfelt celebration. Technology, if we accept Latours formulation, can even
assume the status of actor in a given project, in exactly the same way humans
engaged in the particular tasks at hand routinely do. But there can also be negative
effects, when our direct bodily transactions with the world are continually limited or
even obliterated. For example in specific kinds of workplace the generation of
products may involve recourse to the keyboard, or we press buttons as a routine
activity. Such activity can cement an attitude of remoteness from the results of our
action, a deepening of the process of disembodiment.
Consumer capitalism involves an ever faster circulation of the products many of
us now produce, in particular those of a cultural kind. This can have both negative as
well as positive outcomes for populations. On the positive side there are possibilities
for the formation of new kinds of communities which, transcending national
boundaries, are cemented through their consumption in common of certain cultural
products. But as objects move around the globe they may become progressively
emptied of material content; what is now produced is the sign and not a material
object. Signs generally are of two kinds: information, which essentially is cognitive
material conveyed back and forth through technology; and those objects which
express the ever-increasing aestheticisation of everyday life (forms of popular
music, film, video and the like). These now constitute major forms of consumption,
which shape, and indeed it is claimed, themselves constitute, identities. As
discursive constructs they confer identity in ways that clearly did not exist in the
past. The negative aspect of this is that with the increasing turnover-time involved,
objects as well as cultural artefacts are disposable and emptied of meaning. Some of
these objects such as computers, DVDs and video recorders generate such an excess
of cultural artefacts themselves that people are quite unable to engage with them. As
Lasch and Urry show, individuals become swamped by signifiers, becoming unable
to attach meanings to them.12 Bombarded by the signs of the cosmopolitan, people
may be overwhelmed and can retreat into hostility or a kind of weary cynicism. The
loss of meaning, homogenisation of various kinds, and tendencies to extreme forms
of abstraction characterising consumer capitalism in contemporary times, are major
concerns for some and of little interest, I suspect, to many more. The tendency to



abstraction that is to be found among some mind workers may have some quite
profound implications for our understanding and acknowledgement of our creatural
and cultural lives. Its significance can be seen perhaps most dramatically in relation
to the question of knowledge and how, as embodied individuals in our work, we
understand and transform our world.
Knowledge, work and bodies
Issues of knowledge are fundamental to the theme of embodiment. Knowing occurs
through the operation of the senses, not in a simplistic way but, as I have noted,
through the operation of the senses as our total capacity. The changes that have
taken place with regard to work and our understanding of what these might mean for
personal and social life inevitably raise questions about the relationship between
knowledge and work. In the post-industrial era, since so much work is now
becoming virtual and many fields of work are now basically about information,
there are major challenges to older ideas about the performance of labouring bodies,
but also to our present understanding of how work furnishes particular identities that
are in large part a function of knowledge creation and circulation within particular
kinds of workplace.
The well-known distinction in philosophy of education between knowing how
and knowing that has been a useful way of thinking about knowledge in relation to
education and schooling for several decades. Philosophers of education used the
distinction to analyse the varieties of knowledge the curriculum claimed to
encapsulate. It was also deployed to distinguish the kinds of processes entailed in the
more theoretical or abstract kinds of knowledge from that of skills-or processorientated. Such a way of categorising various kinds of knowledge also perhaps
inadvertently drew attention to troubling questions about theory and practice, and in
so doing, to considerations more broadly of the nature of that work for which
schooling was to be a preparation. Implicit in all of this was the understanding of the
body as skilled: that is, a body, not just a mind, whose musculature, skeleton and
hands engaged with varieties of work. Now, in an age in which so much of work is
about information, the notion of skilled bodies may sound old-fashioned.
Nevertheless the concept of skilled bodies is a particularly interesting one at a
time when information technology pervades all kinds of work. Although one must
be extremely cautious about generalising across different kinds of occupation, I
think it can be argued that many of the skills learnt now are of a purely cognitive
kind, replacing earlier, more physically demanding kinds which in significant ways
made workers more immediately aware of the embodied nature of their labour.
There may be a greater emphasis now on knowing that, rather than knowing how
because of a greater demand on expertise, a kind of knowledge most closely
associated with management and bureaucratic kinds of work activity that consist
almost exclusively of the organisation and transfer of information. Although the
knowing involved in a particular form of expertise will take time and effort to



acquire, it is nonetheless quite distinctively different from that related to the specific
skills needed to perform such tasks as playing the piano competently, removing a
brain tumour or plastering a ceiling. These are skills that can eventually be called
expertise but which will involve the body, notably the hands, in ways that mere
intellectual knowledge will not.
The learning of a skill is hard work involving possibly much disappointment
along the way as we realise that although we may know a great deal about the theory
of making beautiful and functional pottery (or, as an endodontist, how in theory to
negotiate a complex root canal anatomy with ease), we may not be able to actually
perform such a task. The point is that knowing how something is to be done (having
the general idea and perhaps being able to explain it to others) does not mean one
can actually do it, especially in the case where skills are sequentially ordered and the
more complex skills cannot be acquired until those at a more basic level are
satisfactorily mastered. The issue of time becomes a major one for the acquisition of
skills in contemporary workplaces where tight deadlines are set and profits are
dependent upon the fastest possible production and distribution. But when we watch
someone who has skill in, say making a musical instrument or blowing glass, we
feel that the skills displayed are so expertly applied that the whole process appears
easy, belying the sorts of routine repetition that has undoubtedly gone into the
development of such a high level of proficiency. It may seem that the skill is almost
mechanical in its smooth operation. But there is nothing machine-like about the
performance at such levels of artistry. On the contrary such performers must call on
considerable psychological as well as physical resources in order to actually build up
the skills required over a long period. This usually occurs during a lengthy period of
training, which may take months or years to complete.
We often think that a certain depth of knowing has been achieved when a person
has much skill, assuming that the know-how sinks ever deeper into the mind. But
this is a mistake it is not the mind as traditionally conceived, but in fact the body
itself in which such accumulated corporeal wisdom resides. That what the body
knows is not uppermost to consciousness does not make it any less significant.
There is a great reservoir of practical knowledge residing within those individual
bodies that have engaged in various kinds of practice over a long time (riding a bike;
knitting a sock); and in such instances as the building of a house or the making of a
canoe, the activity of the body is immediately visible. One can see what MerleauPonty conceived as the intelligence of the body in operation. But education at the
level of schooling may fail to draw attention to this kind of complex embodied
knowing, except in indirect ways and in the earlier years. Rather, if it privileges
mental knowing it may contribute to students mistaken view that real knowledge
is that which is acquired by minds, not bodies.
Because in contemporary working life increasing numbers of people lack
opportunities for making and doing, that is, using the body to construct, shape and
transform parts of their physical environment, their awareness of bodily connection
with that environment may shrivel. Therefore when schools downgrade or show



contempt for those skills which are not depicted by curriculum documents as
intellectual ones, they not only do their students a disservice but in the long run the
community as well. Moreover many students find themselves forced to endure the
kind of academic curriculum which does not suit their talents, leading to frustration
and their possible failure as Noddings and other have pointed out.13
While people may be missing out on opportunities to develop the skills of
the body, languishing in types of employment that reinforce the divorce from
embodiment, they do have, however, ever-increasing opportunities to be consumers.
It is obvious that, apart from its more mundane functions, consumerism is a means
by which people construct their identities and build and maintain social relations, the
latter being now recognised as essential work in itself. The power conferred by
wealth, while still unavailable to millions, is nonetheless becoming accessible to
larger numbers than ever before; so it is only the extremely poor who are beyond the
reach of consumerism. Meanwhile, the well-to-do and the aspiring construct
meaning and communicate to one another through a complex hierarchy of products.
It has become commonplace to present the contemporary world as one in which we
are immersed in various kinds of object whose production is total, as well as selfperpetuating. What emerges, however, is a picture of the consumer as an
essentially passive recipient of products. He or she is unable to ascertain anything
about how designed objects are made and how they actually work. Those who
design aided by the computer, computer-aided manufacturers and their everexpanding marketing departments are skilled in generating consumer desire. This
desire is among other things predicated upon planned obsolescence, which means
constant replacement. There is an interesting connection here to the claims that I
have made regarding the dominance of the visual in Chapter 1, in that an
ocularcentric culture frequently ensures that once a product is technically outmoded
it is thus necessarily visually out of date as well. Thus an aesthetic of the expendable
accompanies technical obsolescence to ensure that many objects will have a short
life span.
Objects which have been crafted, reveal much about what has gone into their
making as well as about the technology that has been used. When as consumers we
understand and admire how something is made we think more highly of it. In a
world where we have mostly lost touch with the business of making things, and in
which the work we do may give us no access to this dimension of embodied
existence, an object crafted through the skilled used of material and technology by
an individual may restore the almost fully obscured awareness of the connection
between making and using. Of course schooling has a role to play, for if students
never have the experience of appreciating the kinds of skill that have gone into the
making of objects they are less likely to develop such appreciation and
understanding in later life. Making involves the sensuous, and it is this which needs
to be accorded its rightful place in education.
Many critics have pointed out that post-industrial production has not been able to
recover what had first been lost in terms of the de-skilling of individuals that



occurred under industrial capitalism. The move away from the earlier situation in
which a single worker possessed the skills to produce an entire product was a major
feature of mass production, ultimately rendering previously skilled labour redundant.
Post-industrial production using technology may better be able to integrate particular
skills of making but no one person can or would attempt to conceive of or design,
make, market and distribute products on any kind of scale. In any case the separation
of the mental aspects (design and management) from the physical production of
objects is very strong culturally and although Cartesian separations of mind from
body, mental from physical or material, are now rejected, nonetheless there seems to
have been a legacy bequeathed by modernitys continuing separation of mind and
hand that has continued to the present.
Lest it be thought that my comments are little more than a romanticisation of an
outmoded conception of craft and an expression of hostility to computer technology,
let me provide an example of a practical kind which illustrates the problem. In the
production of certain brands of car most of the engineering involved in developing
new models is carried out by software rather than in the older manner using lathes
and drawing instruments. Computer-aided design and engineering have replaced the
previous practice. The crucial point here is that engineers can design almost any
component entirely on a computer and follow this with simulation tests for
reliability. This replaces the previous practice of building an entire prototype
vehicle, testing its individual components along the way, until each component is
deemed reliable. The key issue for the present discussion is that, now, testing for
real-world reliability and durability takes place only at the very end of the total
process and on prototypes which themselves are developed wholly from computeraided engineering prototypes. The desire to speed up the project to meet deadlines
means that enormous pressure exists to increase output. But one of the difficulties is
that computer-assisted engineering cannot always accurately replicate the stresses
involved in real-world use of the vehicle. In other words they fail to account for the
very reality of forces with which vehicles will have to contend in actual situations.
In this example two aspects of embodiment are highlighted: the absence of those
skills which previously existed (using lathes and other instruments of manufacture)
and the fact that cars have drivers and carry passengers who are embodied beings
and whose activities in driving and travelling will alter the performance of the
vehicle in a multiplicity of ways.
Cultural and literary representations of product knowledge being dominant in
the present era (as epitomised in design, advertising and marketing) has meant that
the practical side of production the exercise of embodied skills is frequently
downplayed or overlooked entirely. The split between the mental and manual
persists in a variety of ways and is to be seen particularly in the bifurcation of the
design of material products utilising information technology from the actual making
of the objects. That there exist material processes that are and will always be
inflexible as discursive media seems to be an awkward reality that is not recognised.
Perhaps it is regarded as an embarrassment precisely because it recalls corporeality.



The results however are to be seen in the de-skilling of bodies that has occurred in a
variety of ways and in a wide range or areas. For example, the computer in digital
automation sets up a qualitative gulf between the physical process of making, which
is reduced to the standard action of touching a key, and the act of representation, a
mental act of judging that entails selection from a menu of image possibilities. The
latter calls for sophisticated intellectual skills while the former shrinks in
importance, however complex it may once have been when carried out by a skilled
Technology, embodied making and tacit knowing
It is neither right nor prudent to lay the blame for the demise of any meaningful
sense of bodies who work on technology. As Latour argues, to regard all
technologies as mere tools is to reinstate notions of dualism and mediation that are
simply wrong. Technologies of various kinds have always existed, improving human
life in ways too numerous to list. Many of our activities at work, in the home, during
leisure time and so on, involve technology. And anyway, our bodies have long ago
incorporated it in a variety of ways we may wear contact lenses or dentures, carry
around plastic hip joints or pacemakers, or rely on hormonal implants under our
skin. But because the rise of certain kinds of technology has impacted directly on the
traditional areas of making, that is, the production of certain kinds of objects, then
the question that arises is how this kind of production may have been negatively
affected by such innovation. So it is, I think, legitimate to ask whether or not the
introduction of specific technologies has the effect of removing such objects and
processes from the realm of the makers sensuous experience. By the latter I mean
an embodied workers encounter with the size, smoothness or hardness of actual
objects, their colour, shape, smell and so on, with their specificity as these sorts of
object rather than something else. Such sensuous engagement may seem irrelevant
from the point of view of consumers, but for workers it can mean that the integration
of machines and information for the purpose of creating processes of manufacture
and distribution of objects, may render their embodied intentions, desires and active
engagement with the world of materials obsolete. Over time the experiential
dimension may be lost to them permanently. No doubt in the eyes of some this will
not matter, but others may worry that it will contribute to a general lack of interest in
knowing how things are made and where they come from. It may dampen curiosity
in ways that encourage a kind of passivity, which over time hardens into indifference towards and ignorance about the physical world.
The extent to which information technology now shapes our lives remains a
contentious issue, though discussions about this are often clouded by misunderstandings. On the one hand there is a strongly deterministic argument which
depicts human beings as now being driven willy-nilly by technologies over which
they have little control and in the face of which they must yield. In this the
individual and her desires, political stance and moral values seem to be swept aside



in ways she is helpless to contest. A much more subtle account of technological

power however, presents it as having its own impetus and logic which reorganises
our workplaces, institutions, social and personal lives in ways that may appear
attractive and useful, but which still impose new arrangements in which we have had
no choice. This, by the way, is not merely an updated version of the older view of
workers, citizens or ordinary people having change imposed upon them from above.
In fact the recipients of technological change are themselves the managers, directors
and even the owners of the technology. Moreover within science, technology, as
Latour demonstrates, cannot be neatly extracted and identified as purely instrumental to human agents practice. It is this complexity of the relationship of people
to machines which makes any objections we might want to raise about technological
change difficult. It is not necessarily bosses or management who are forcing us to
embrace the latest innovation rather it is ourselves, or at least our closest
colleagues, and competitors.
Nevertheless there remain legitimate concerns about the degree that technology
can seem to present as something unalterable, and which human beings must accept
on any terms.
In principle, of course, human beings can organise themselves to change the
course of technology, but obviously it is extremely difficult to do this in practice,
especially if the trend in a particular industry or institution is well advanced and
there is strong competition to perform at optimum levels among those in that sector.
Removing computers from fundamental processes such as running the rail system,
coordinating flight takeoff and landings at an airport or enrolling and processing
student results in a university would not only cause chaos initially but render
connected services inoperative, not to mention placing workers at considerable
disadvantage to those in adjacent sectors of the workforce. Once a technology has
been entrenched in the society it appears that it cannot be dislodged except by
another technology. The problems which may arise have more to do with the fact
that we may remain unaware of the changes being wrought not just changes in our
physical working environment but also those which over time can reshape us
psychically, including our outlook as workers, our sense of who and what we are,
and our attitudes to our own creatural existence, especially our sense of agency as
individuals and as citizens.
Technology may move forward as a series of interventions, but it can also
proceed organically with many small alterations and innovations taken by many
people in a variety of locations. This in effect is the persuasiveness of technology
ideas continually flow back and forth producing a kind of organic growth that is not
of one time or place but rather goes on simultaneously in many locations, all the
time and everywhere that the technology is used. Only the most determined largescale political intervention could halt or even interrupt such development. Likewise
the notion that any one person is in a position to determine the direction of
technology is far-fetched, given the diffuse nature of its ongoing progression.



Nevertheless there are those whose attitude towards the impact of technology on
certain kinds of knowledge and creativity is decidedly pessimistic. They are faced
with situations, for example in educational institutions where courses in industrial
and product design now consist mostly of virtual design on computers. The chief
difficulty as I have already argued is the absence of a tactile or physical encounter
with materials. Restricted scope for kinaesthetic and tactile sensitivity seems to be
a feature of much of the technology involved in design at present. Specialist in
interaction design, Gillian Crampon Smith, argues that it is impossible on a
computer to luxuriate in a material as one would in shaping clay, simply because
every few seconds one must stop thinking in order to click on icons of text sections
which interrupt the creative flow. Such critics seem to be saying that until the
computer interface becomes more organic, intuitive and indeed human, that is less
mechanistic, then they will not progress in creative terms until they go beyond point
and press functions and begin to incorporate human skills. The key point to be made
overall is that computer designing of all kinds is a mental craft, not a handcraft.
There exists now a globalising culture that is technological in character. That
culture is to be found centrally in the world of work as information technology, and
as computerisation of design and manufacture. It is also to be encountered in
education at most levels and is a feature of other institutions which are not usually
regarded as workplaces in the strictest sense of the word: in non-government,
humanitarian and charitable organizations for example. Yet the reach of the
computer is by no means all-encompassing. There remains a sensuousness to many
activities that simply cannot be captured via the rendering of it as information of
various types on the computer. This applies not only to the objects that only the
human hand can make but also to many processes in fields such as furniture
production, jewellery-making and various kinds of metal work. Computers cannot
always replicate handwork but even where they can, there is reason to maintain the
work of hands.
There is a whole dimension of work that is also sensuous but not in terms of
generating a concrete product with use or aesthetic value. This is the area of
emotional work, something which is embodied in most fundamental ways, as the
writing of Megan Boler on education convincingly demonstrates. Such work has
until recently been little acknowledged, resisting definition and categorisation for a
variety of reasons. Suffice to say that such emotional work resonates at a deep level
with those work activities that allow us to experience what Heidegger called the
eloquence of objects. These are not merely visually apprehended, but impact upon
individuals in ways that cannot be encompassed by electronically generated
representations, schema, or models.
As Dewey understood, making is a form of intellectual and imaginative owning.
Children, and even adolescents who have a particular passion for, say, animals or
cars, will draw and model such objects in their early years. Making is therefore a
way of embedding ones particular engagement with the world and its materiality
in the embodied imagination. And while making is by no means the only manner



in which we can understand and indeed own the objects we desire, it is nonetheless
a most powerful one. Becoming engrossed in the object and desiring profoundly to
understand it lies at the heart of young childrens impetus to draw and make. It
is also basic to the development of understanding of ones implacement.
Understanding through making and doing is, I maintain, a fundamental need in the
child, one which for many children is ignored in their later years of schooling when
abstract forms of knowledge come to dominate the curriculum. The passivity of
bodies so much in evidence in contemporary life, while no doubt having a number
of causes, can also be induced by forms of education which, while they may
emphasise the acquiring of abstract forms of knowledge, nonetheless do not provide
adequate opportunities for experiencing the pleasures of making and doing.
Tangible objects produced out of the stuff the world is made of stone and
metal, wood, resins, shells and ochres, as well as human-made paper, glass and dyes
delight young children and can remain a delight throughout their lives if not
diminished by the rush to master the presently available abstract kinds of
knowledge. Such contact with materials connects individuals with materiality, the
earth and its forms. It conveys understandings not only of materials but also of
physics and function, demonstrating in ways that perhaps can only otherwise be
described in theoretical and abstract terms, the particular characteristics and
behaviour of various kinds of matter. Further, the point of contact between different
kinds of matter say wood with stone can be the means of providing quite
profound understandings of how objects and the forces which act upon them
operate. Skill, focus, intuition and corporeal intelligence in Merleau-Pontys sense
are required to work with metal there are for example questions of beating,
melting, soldering and so on. This kind of experience, which though it may not lead
directly to employment, can however spark an interest that may well be renewed
later in life as hobby or pastime, even, perhaps, being put to use in the service of the
There will no doubt be argument about the benefits I appear to be claiming here
for hands-on experiencing of materials and their potentialities. The developments
in technology, especially in the area of design, might suggest that the experience of
making as described above is no longer as important as it once was. Designing on
the computer can provide the same kind of understanding and appreciation of
materials and their particular capacities and functions, such critics might claim. But
those whose actual work is about making and doing often have a very different
response. As the British potter Mike Casson notes:
... it must be something about the use of the senses. The physical sense of throwing, for
me a wonderful amalgam of power and delicacy. The sense of touch on a pot, smooth or
craggy: the sense of sight-colour and visual texture ... and the sense of sound a pot
makes when struck which tells much about form and materials and firing. Last but not
least a sense of weight apparently there is an African word that means good to pick
up and feel right in the hand a good pot to lift.14



The urge to make things to engage with the materials of the world is
strongest when we are young, though of course it can easily be suppressed by
uninspiring external conditions. For some individuals this remains into adulthood,
but probably in far fewer instances than in previous generations. Only for a relative
few does the exploration of ideas take the form of making. For some it remains to
provide them with so much intellectual, imaginative and sensory pleasure and
satisfaction that they will do it all their lives.
In an epoch of technological objectification, I think we need to be reminded of
that in everyday life, including in particular through our work, we engage in a wilful
grasping and clinging to the world through the use of our hands. David Michael
Levin points out in his powerful articulation of Heideggers account of how it is that
we handle the things of the world. His view that the technological age presents a
particular problem because of its tendency to want to always tie down or secure
through possession all manner of objects in the world is expressed as follows:
The grasping gestures characteristic of our technological world is powerful but they
cannot reach into the essential nature of things. In this regard, such gestures are tactless
transgressions. The careful touch, which is open to feeling what it touches and uses, gets
in touch with a things essential nature more deeply and closely than the hand which
wilfully grasps and clings moved by strong desires (that is attractions and aversions), or
than the hand which is indifferent to the beauty of the thing in the wholeness of its truth.
This is why I have argued that the rooting of gesture in thinking requires attention to the
body of felt experience.

He continues:
A bodily felt guardian awareness, being the mode of our original tactile understanding,
our global pre-comprehension of things in a primordial mode of tactile openness, is our
most tactful way into the opening depth of things. Touching with equanimity, handling
with tact, we leave things whole and intact. Touching with a restraint that is not
deformed by renunciation; we let things yield the richness of their more intangible
nature, their deeper and otherwise inaccessible nature. Handling things without
greediness, our hands will be filled with a palpable wealth. Maintaining things in
accordance with the dictates or our guardian awareness, the objects of technology can
perhaps be transmuted into the things they originally were and essentially are. Even
when we use things, we can be moved to keep them in a way that also lets them be free
of our use. The hammer, the piston, the knot and pulley are certainly useful; but they are
also manifestly beautiful and not only when they are left to stand in their own
intactness, but even when they are actually being used, if handled by hands receptive to
the moving beauty of their presence.

Levin asks what exactly is the nature of our capacity to be touched and indeed
moved by that which we are given for our touching. What is it that touches us and
by what are we moved? As Merleau-Ponty tells us, touching assumes a capacity to
be correspondingly touched, and this primordial reciprocity throws into question
our long-standing habit of polarising the tactile field into the configuration of subject
which knows its object. Is it possible therefore to touch things, handle and indeed
use them with a sensibility which speaks of equanimity, that is having the capacity
to let go and to let be? There is, as Heidegger certainly believed and Merleau-Ponty



recognised, a properly human gesture, one that is in touch with the intrinsic value
of Being and which is not attached to ego. Levin gives as an example the cabinetmaker who touches the wood he uses with fingers sensitive to the precise needs
of the wood. He allows his fingers and the work of his hands to be attuned by the
wood itself. The wood speaks by means of its grain and the hand moves in response.
He takes pride in his instruments and handles them with a timeless care. As he planes
the wood, he caresses the grain. In the flow of his movements we will observe poise
and grace; and in his gentle touching and holding we may sense a visible tact.
It will be argued the kind of touch he refers to is applicable to a very narrow
range of human activity, that of making or crafting objects of a utilitarian nature but
especially those having aesthetic qualities. It will be seen to have little applicability
to the technologically advanced systems that characterise many workplaces today.
The activities of many workplaces with their newer kinds of commercial relations
and practices and their largely symbolic products and anchoring in communications
that emphasise the virtual, can seem far removed from the kind of tactile experience
outlined in the example above. Unfortunately such a work ideal will be relevant only
to the few. But this does not mean that the intensification of bodily de-skilling is
inevitable. People can and do make choices to engage in activities that will allow
them to recover old corporeal skills and develop new ones. But perhaps education
can play a greater role in ensuring that more than just an enthusiastic few do so.
Levin suggests that the best kind of response is one in which a new society, a
new community in which conditions favourable to a deeper understanding of technology
itself, together with conditions hospitable to the gestures most responsive to a
radically different ontology, could be tried, tested, and measured against the ontological difference these could make. One possible conceptualisation of this is by
way of an extension of Latours notion of the active folding of the human and nonhuman within collectivities, having well-defined but limited goals orientated to the
completion of a specific project. Levin, using more directly philosophical concepts
and language, suggests a reconnection with gestural contact with the world, claiming
that gestures of grasping, seizing and clinging, gestures of rage and violence and the
gestures of mechanical indifference have established themselves as the dominant
ones. This he feels would help combat that reductive nihilism characteristic of the
present historical era, one in which our way of relating to the things in the world has
become remote and abstract while simultaneously abusive and violent: the reduction
renders everything available for immediate control and manipulation. According to
Levin, what we have is a technologically conditioned ontology, which above all
reflects hands that are motivated by the need to dominate and control. But this state
of affairs is not inevitable and uncontestable. One of the ways of combating it is by
way of a re-examination of the notion of craft-knowledge.
The kinds of connections which the body makes with the world in the examples I
have provided earlier on in this chapter raise the question of how knowledge resides
within the body when know-how is exercised habitually as forms of craft. The



answer is by means of tacit knowledge that which is acquired through sensuous

experience and is therefore necessarily embodied. It is that kind of knowledge which
allows us to be able to do things drive a car, build a garden shed, implant a
replacement tooth, repair a television set rather than merely verbally describing the
processes involved or writing clear and logically organised instructions about how to
carry out these activities. This may seem strange since commonsense might suggest
that if we know something well and can describe activities vividly and accurately
then we ought to be also able to do it. But clearly this is not always the case: one
may well be able to write very persuasively, about teaching a Year 9 class for
example, but in fact be quite unable to do so; a science journalist may provide a
convincing account of an experiment but in fact have none of the practical
experience to carry it out.
Tacit knowledge is practical know-how and it exists within individual bodies
and also among groups of embodied human beings. It is learnt and incorporated by
individuals only through practice. Although its theory can be learnt from books,
videos, CD-ROMs and other sources, its practice can only be acquired over time and
by means of embodied activity. To play a musical instrument, operate a lathe to
shape wood or to make a container for fuel rods in a nuclear reactor require a high
degree of the relevant corporeal skills. That said, it is obvious that different kinds of
tacit knowledge stand in different kinds of relationships to practical know-how:
while it is doubtful that an individual learning to blow glass would gain a great deal
from watching film about the activity, someone following written instructions about
how to construct a compost heap may find a magazine article quite adequate to the
task of providing information.
In a very real sense, therefore, tacit knowledge is embodied in the people who
have it. Complex processes of corporeal learning that involve knowing X in order to
perform it before passing on to the next task in sequences, are quite a different
matter from the learning process involved in knowing about X in order to be able to
speak or write about it. Since much of the work in senior secondary school can
consist largely of the latter writing about processes, reproducing results at
examinations it leaves out not only the realities of those embodied skills in
individuals, but it also leaves out an understanding that tacit knowledge in the
workplace usually has an important institutional or communal element to it. Tasks
of some complexity such as forming by hand an arch-wire in orthodontics, or
constructing accurate architectural models, involve greater content and breadth of
practical experience than can be said to reside in the individual, no matter how
proficient or creative. Hence the element of practice by the many, in a communal
work setting, is more often than not a feature of practice in many fields. In this way
new ways of doing things are discovered and wider applications canvassed. What
we see in these instances is a kind of inter-corporeality at work, one in which the
relation among bodies is as significant as the fact of the embodied individual.
It seems to me that education at all levels must resist the tendency to utilise
technology in ways that mean that students will be dealing entirely with the virtual,



rather than actual, material processes and objects throughout all stages of their
learning. Virtual objects can be created on the computer and this fits with the
contemporary world of work in which computer-generated mass manufacture is well
established. Design using computer CAD systems, for example, allows the user to
create, modify and thus finish a virtual product which, in actual time, might take
much trial and error and perhaps wastage of materials to reach the same end point.
What we discern in this process is a quite new sense in which ones creation of
objects or product keeps pace with ones ideas, ones inspiration with ones use of
particular software. We may not see any engagement with materials as such at all.
We might well ask, then, is this activity still called making? Is it what used to be
called craft, encompassing both personal know-how and communal practice as
described above? These, I think, are important questions not only for educators but
also for employers and communities.
Bodies producing bodies
I want to turn now to a very different conception of work but one which Dewey
regarded as the prime issue of work or production for human societies, the
reproduction of the human being. Reproduction can be viewed as that process of
bearing and rearing offspring in a specific cultural milieu within its characteristic
normalising, discursive frameworks governing such notions as childhood, parenting,
development and so on. But it may also be seen in its biological reality in which one
human body produces another of its kind. As a form of labour the reproduction
of the species is unique: there is nothing in the external world of work that is
comparable. At its beginning conception, bearing and birth though it obviously
involves both males and females, it nevertheless has a specific connection to the
lives of women. The issues of human reproduction highlight like nothing else can
the reality that human beings emerge from the physical, animal existence and only
then enter into the social realm in the life of the species and individual.
Carol Bigwood, whose work I briefly mentioned in the previous chapter on
creatural existence, reminds us of the interconnected web of relations with the
human and non-human, the cultural and natural, when she describes the experience
of pregnancy in which the body cleaves to others and things: in Merleau-Pontys
terms, to the general incarnate structures of the world. The connatural body I
described in that chapter as neither empirically nor logically prior to the cultural or
discursive body, but rather as existentially codeterminant with it, demonstrates
dramatically that we exist simultaneously in discursively constructed and natural
ways that are quite unavoidably intertwined. With Bigwood I hold that the female
body has its own indeterminate natural structures that noncausally generate
womens particular way of being-in-the-world. Absolutely central to this is the
experience of menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding. Bigwoods
descriptions of the ways in which a woman responds to the natural upsurge that
independently of her volition courses through her body with a life of its own,



demonstrates that blurring and diffusion which Merleau-Ponty felt gave a truer
picture of the incarnate self.
It is difficult to think of another experience in which the body is so thoroughly
in the grip of what Merleau-Ponty referred to as a certain living pulsation.
Nonetheless it is necessary to remind ourselves that the mother in her labouring is
not simply allowing nature to take its course but rather all that happens to her the
particular mode of birthing, its time and place, the procedures followed by mother
and those who assist, the medical interventions and so on will all be discursively
constructed, and depending on the individuals prior experience, socially formed
attitudes and responses, will interact to make the experience of birthing more or less
conform to expectations and outcomes already given within the various frameworks
that constitute normal birthing and mothering available in a given culture. But it
remains an undeniably physical process in which flesh and blood bodies reproduce
their own kind as do all animals.
Recognising pregnancy and childbirth as a quite unique form of labour has
always been problematic for a patriarchal intellectual tradition with its rationalist
foundations. But it has also presented problems for feminists of various kinds, in
particular those wanting to avoid the pitfalls of an older biological determinism
based on the long-established nature/culture divide which had placed women at the
mercy of their reproductive function and effectively barred them from public
participation. For some analysts of discourse the natural body of women presents
as especially problematic. Yet even here it has been necessary for such critics to
explain what it is that they have been engaging with when, for example, they have
disavowed womens nature on the grounds that it is essentialist. In other words,
stronger explanations are needed about what was included in the account of nature
being rejected. By this I mean that the idea of nature was every bit as much subject
to changed interpretation depending on historical circumstance as was the
conception of culture. In the mid-twentieth century the calls by various forms of
feminism for women to take control of their bodies was predicated on a clear
division between the biological (the natural) and the social, with the terms more
often than not being opposed, representing radically different realms of human
existence. Much of this kind of thinking, leading eventually to social policy
recommendations, involved either a conceptual repudiation of nature, and/or a
program of action that would limit the workings of the natural female body
through contraception and other means. The broader issue that underlay the feminist
political agenda for womens control of their bodies, was that of how constraining
the natural, either physically or conceptually, could have an impact upon
conceptions of human difference and also upon social equality.
In the past sixty years the conceptual dismantling of the idea of female nature
has proceeded apace. In the work of Beauvoir, historical materialism and Sartrean
existentialism were deployed to show that biology for women was not destiny.
Meantime actual interventions in the biological lives of women (control of
menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, etc) allowed women to emancipate



themselves from nature as animal procreation. Theorising about the lives of women
produced varieties of analysis that emphasised the social construction of women and
their lives. At the centre of these was the nature vs. culture division, which is most
apparent in the claim that gender and biological sex are two different things and that
gender does not necessarily follow the dictates of sex. Over the past four decades the
term gender has been understood not only to better demonstrate the socially
constructed operation of discursive regimes upon actual bodies, but in addition to
rescue the latter from their previous unfortunate anchoring in purely biological
accounts of male and female bodies and behaviour.
Now as I have remarked in previous chapters, discursive accounts of bodies must
not be dismissed: they are evidence that we are meaning-making animals. An
understanding of the ways in which womens embodiment has been shaped and in
particular controlled by varieties of discourses of the feminine those about sexual
difference, female sexuality, reproduction and so on are absolutely central to
grasping not only the processes of production of women, but also how political
feminisms demands have been framed. Language, images, discursive representations are crucial to movements for womens equality. Depictions of women and men
as differing with respect to the objects of emotional response, for example are
significant cultural means by which the position of women (and men) are enacted.
But in focusing on the discursive we must avoid falling into what seems to me is just
another kind of essentialism one in which culture itself is essentialised. When this
occurs the physical world, including the bodies of human beings, become little more
than a screen for our culturally encoded and psychosocially determined projections.
In contrast, for the philosophers and other theorists of the body whose work I have
drawn upon, there are no separate realms of the natural or cultural: rather,
everything is simultaneously both manufactured and physical.
It is women who labour directly with their bodies (just like the females of other
species) to produce another generation. In labouring to effect the production of life
women have been historically engaged in nurturing the not yet socialised human
infant towards entry as an adult person into the culture. This is what feminist
Ynestra King calls the socialisation of the organic but it is not, I reiterate, proof
that there exist two separate realms that require bridging between nature and
culture.19 Women, it has been argued, have traditionally been regarded as the means
of mediating nature for men who inhabit the separate realm of culture, which
transcends nature, but who continue to deny its dependence on the latter. This sort of
thinking reinforces a nature/culture, division. Just as it allows an essentialism of
nature to occur it can equally lead to the discursive submersion of a female
reproducing body, that is, to a repudiation of the actual materiality of the production
of life. Although some have depicted this production of life as a labouring in
reciprocity with nature, the labouring of womens bodies in the production of
children does not fit easily into the available categories about what work is.
Such labouring of women in reproduction, involves focusing on the time of the
human body. It reminds not just women but men also, of the creaturely dimension of



existence, a fact that not only religious tradition but also the intellectual tradition as
a whole has attempted to suppress or at the very least downplay. As such it contrasts
with the kind of time I discussed in the previous chapter, which children encounter
early on in schooling and which characterises the workplace and public life
generally. The time of the body challenges clock time and the specular logic of
the traditional rationality that underlies the way the culture is organised, particularly
with regard to work. It recalls the fact of our embodiment which is grounded in a
non-dualistic materialism, reminding us that everything we do and what we are is
rooted in the body. Our animality, our creaturely character is therefore not somehow
outgrown as we become enculturated.
An overemphasis on representation and discursivity can fall prey to the tendency
to deny the worlds independence of us as the human species. What is needed is a
realisation that for humanity (as for certain others species) culture itself is natural,
that human bodies are of the kind that can survive and flourish only by means of
culture, that is through the creation of symbols and meanings. Without culture we
would die very quickly. Nietzsche may have been scathing about the culture of his
day, but he did not deny the significance of culture per se in human life. But an
overinsistence on discursive truths can have the effect of obliterating the central
truth, which is that human subjectivity is physical at the same time that it is
expressive. I agree with Eagletons comment there seems to be a fear circulating that
unless we continually remind ourselves that we are cultural animals, we will
degenerate into the long habit of naturalising our existence. Female producing
bodies (reproductive female bodies in particular) seem to present an uncomfortable
physical and surprising reality which must be subdued by various discourses. These
can have the unfortunate effect of controlling but also silencing the pregnant body.
Obscuring the fact that child-bearing and birthing are work is not helpful in the long
run if we want to gain a comprehensive understanding of what work is and can be.
It is a much less complicated matter to examine in educational settings issues of
work, careers, employment and the like than it is to include the issue of womens
labouring in reproduction as a theme to be explored. Some of the reasons for this are
immediately apparent and have to do with the way issues of reproduction are
confined to certain areas of the curriculum. Although themes of population growth,
paid and unpaid labour may be raised within the frameworks of economics or
history, there is little scope for examining the labour of pregnancy and birth in those
parts of the curriculum. Much of the discussion about such themes is relegated to the
area of sex education where it is more often than not dealt with in a mechanistic
way, which is no doubt related to the one-dimensional view of human sexuality
expressed in such curricula. In general, sexuality it not approached from the point of
view of a broad exploration of human sensuous existence, but rather as a recitation
of facts about the biological aspects of sex and reproduction, with ideological
overtones that are in some cases an expression of a confused, hypocritical set of
attitudes about male and female sexuality.



The growing influence of conservative political groups, notably those of a

puritanical religious kind, on curricula in countries such as the USA and more
recently Australia means that a more holistic approach to the teaching of human
sexuality female sexuality and its complexities in particular is unlikely to gain
ground. Further there are problems in my view arising specifically from the
conflation of health education with that of sexuality and reproduction. Much health
education, for example, is underpinned by narrow and uncritical social theoretical
foundations that overemphasise the concept of norms both in respect of biology and
behaviour. For example, there are norms of health regarding the body that conflict
with the physical realities of the pregnant body. After all, as Iris Marion Young has
argued, the ideal of the healthy body is one of steady state and the pregnant body is
hardly that.20 The separation of pregnant body from everything else in the
curriculum, especially from female sexuality, serves to obscure issues that are
important to a wider understanding of its character as simultaneously creatural and
cultural. They certainly do not allow the fullest appreciation of womens work in
pregnancy and birth.
The work of women in reproducing the next generation is of course shared with
men, in ways that it was not in the past. Child-raising has always been a matter of
community in many places and at various times in particular it is now regarded in
many quarters, but especially among the middle classes in so-called developed or
industrialised countries, as a matter for males and females. Discourses of sexual
equality have moved from equality in the paid workforce and focused on notions of
shared responsibility for the welfare of the young. Ideally the labour that it entails is
to be shared between men and women whether in heterosexual or homosexual
relationships. Men are not able to experience pregnancy and childbirth as an integral
part of their own embodiment, but there is no doubt that they are fully able to
participate sensuously and intimately in the overall processes of reproduction
(assisting birthing, infant care). All the more reason then for the reproduction and
care of offspring to be seen as that work which Dewey claimed is vital to the
survival and flourishing of societies.
Education for embodied existence working in and with the world
In concluding this chapter I reiterate Deweys point about the centrality of work to
embodied human existence. Having said that, I also need to acknowledge that there
are major difficulties in defining work today. As John White has argued in his
Education and the End of Work: A New Philosophy of Work and Learning it is
obvious that we have categories which are too narrow and restricting into which we
fit all manner of activities called work and which no doubt are work for at least
some members of society, in that it is what they carry out in order to earn a wage.
But there are a great many things people do that certainly have all the hallmarks of
work but for which they are not financially rewarded. Such activities cover the
production of all sorts of objects, the provision of all manner of services generating



those cultural products that regulate, direct and discipline our lives. Many people
seem to work for the love of it, others because they wish to contribute directly to the
well-being of society. Others still work because they have exceptional skills that
virtually demand to be utilised. Unfortunately, however, there are increasing
numbers of people who find that the work that they must do (their job, usually, but
not in all cases) leaves them little opportunity to appreciate their own embodied
existence. It is to this aspect of the theme of embodiment that I turn in concluding
the discussion of working bodies.
When Studs Terkel wrote his influential study Working more than thirty years
ago the Americans he spoke to regarding their feelings about and attitudes towards
work indicated that many felt that there was more to life than simply the (then)
nine-to-five regimen of paid work.21 Such views seem to indicate that people
perhaps made a clear distinction between their job, working for a living, career, etc
and something else, which was regarded as their real life, that which presumably
was more meaningful at some deeper level. Three decades and more on, peoples
attitudes appear to have changed markedly. There are several aspects to this change
in attitudes but what stands out, perhaps, is the manner in which identity is tied up
with work, that is the sense of who one is, and is therefore deeply meaningful.22
Now we must be very careful of generalisations here: there are millions of people in
the world for whom work is daily grind, often poorly paid and with little or no
capacity for being meaningful in the sense mentioned. The majority of the worlds
population is in such a situation. That is, they are in no position to be inspired or
empowered by their work; there is no profound sense of achievement, only
resignation to a life of drudgery. Working longer hours merely to make ends meet is
the lot of many who are not in the very privileged situation of being in jobs that
interest them.
It is within particular social groups that the change has taken place. That change
is generational and cultural and redefines work in important ways. In many cases
people in jobs which interest and indeed excite them welcome long hours. In an era
in which unionism and previous concerns regarding a just wage, equality of pay and
so on are receding, the question of the hours of work people will engage in has
become very much a matter between individuals and employers. Within societies
where the overt value is that of success (and I am aware that there are different ways
of defining success), working longer hours is an expression of ambition, which is
taken now as an unalloyed good. Inability to gain satisfaction from ones work is
regarded as a failure or simply ones just desserts for not being sufficiently well
educated or ambitious. Being in control may even be one of the newer defining
characteristics of work, which the complex domain of home with its emotional and
other demands may not be able to furnish. But again we must remind ourselves that
only certain kinds of jobs exhibit this all-absorbing character and only for certain
people, specifically those with the kinds of skills the technological workplace now
demands. There is no doubt that technology buttresses the new world of work;



laptop computers, mobile phones, voicemail and email mean that the world of work
is often indistinguishable from that of the home.
But the outcome of all of this is often that longer hours are worked. Despite the
greater freedom of choice within specific workplaces about what tasks may be done
by particular personnel and the much greater attention apparently paid to personal
preferences, it is now frequently expected that workers will be available for much
longer periods, well beyond the previously accepted time set aside for the working
week or day. Commentators on work point out that workers may now have a greater
say in how their own workplaces are organised and run, and have far greater
freedom to carry out work in locations of their own choosing. But they may also be
expected to be on-call for particular projects, which requires them to dedicate more
and more hours to the work. Australians, for example, now work more than fifty
hours per week twice as many as they did two decades ago. A work-obsessed
culture, its critics claim, means that people now accord the workplace and their
functioning in it unprecedented status. This is not to deny in any way the reality that
many people enjoy their jobs.
The reasons for this changed status of work have to do with the explosion of the
kinds of jobs that allow for creativity and flexibility, the increased uses of
technology and the expansion of the kind of know-how that is the lifeblood of areas
such as sales, marketing and advertising, financial services, media and academic
work, and which consists largely of the creation and implementation of ideas and
forms of symbolic capital. But a more basic reason is that of the enormous financial
pressures demanding that individuals subscribe to the values of the new workplace
one in which success at all costs is to be achieved. The idea of what constitutes a
decent life is now consistently being revised with the standard being raised ever
higher, thus demanding even greater efforts in work to sustain it. This tends to
support the growing belief that not only is the workplace now the centre of existence
but that this is as it should be. However this outlook goes hand in hand with the
acceptance that earning and spending are the twin activities in life consumption is
the other side of the long-working-hours coin, and requires enormous attention to
the demands of the workplace. There is fear among the populace (and not just those
in work that is routine, even boring and low-paid, but also those with interesting
jobs) fear of retrenchment, replacement by others who will expend even greater
effort and work even longer hours.
A passionate engagement with ones work is, for many people, the central reality
of their lives. Such passion for ones work has produced many of the great
inventions and discoveries that have led to improvements in the quality of life. They
are the outcome of the single-minded devotion of individuals and groups, their skills
and dedication. In the past such skills were visibly embodied, something that will
not be so immediately apparent today. But in many of the jobs we hold today we are
unable to see how skills are embodied. If we are fortunate our work may be of the
kind that does not diminish our sense of being embodied. If we are not, we may feel
a growing disillusionment with the ever-increasing demands of jobs and the



encroachments made in our creatural lives. The issue of work however is not simply
a matter for individuals and their preferences and choices it is, basically, a matter
for political decision and social policy. That in the post-industrial world we now live
in a work-obsessed culture is widely accepted as the reality for increasing numbers
of us. Is this a bad thing? The evidence that individuals are suffering burnout and
work-related stress is increasing, but so also is the evidence that populations of the
post-industrial world and sections of some industrialising populations are more and
more enslaved to consumption.
The questions then for educators, it seems to me, are those which ask quite
simply: What is work for? And how does the work we do contribute to a more fully
realised creatural and culture existence our own and others? And finally, if the
work we do does not fulfil our needs, what kind of action can we take to remedy
such a situation? These are not questions I will attempt to answer here but they are,
it seems to me, major issues for education at the present time.





The demise of the labouring body is a theme cultural theorist Terry Eagleton has explored in a
number of his works. His most recent discussion is to be found in Chapter 6, Morality in After
Theory, New York: Basic Books, 2003.
There are many charitable organisations, which in size and complexity are comparable to large
corporations. Within these there will often be both paid and unpaid workers who carry out work that
is substantially the same, though there may be, formally at least, some differences in overall
One of the most informative, accessible and sophisticated accounts of the history of work is Richard
Donkins Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Evolution of Work, New York & London: Textere,
2001. See also Jamie Pecks Workplace: The Social Regulation of Labor Markets, New York &
London: The Guildford Press, 1996.
Noddings critique is contained in a recent work Happiness and Education, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Deweys remarks about production are to be found in Section II, Chapter Six, The Individual In the
New Society in Intelligence in the Modern World: John Deweys Philosophy, edited and with an
introduction by Joseph Ratner, New York: The Modern Library, 1939, pp 429-430. With respect to
the theme of productive capacities in human beings and societys duty to utilise them well, see also
Deweys work in and about China and his concerns about its problems of development, but also the
processes by which life could be made satisfying and productive for individuals in that country, as it
was in his day. John Dewey: Lectures in China 1919-1920, edited and translated from the Chinese by
Robert W. Clopton and Tsun-Chen Ou, An East-West Center Book: The University of Hawaii Press:
Honolulu, 1973.
Deweys suggestion that the state should somehow be involved in seeing that individuals find and
take up those occupations most suited to their talents and education sounds strange in vastly changed
economic times in which, as Beckett and Hager point out, it is assumed that it will be the
responsibility of each individual to identify and cultivate his or her own employment opportunities
with vigour. See Beckett, D. and Hager, P., Life Work and Learning Practice in Postmodernity.











Routledge International Studies in the Philosophy of Education, London, Routledge, 2002,

Introduction, p. 5.
The new work order is concerned with creating new people (employees) for the world of fast
capitalism. Gee, James, Hull, Glynda & Lankshear, Colin, The New Work Order: Behind the
Language of the New Capitalism, 1996.
I have borrowed the term mind worker from the social analyst Clive Hamilton. They are also
referred to as symbolic analysts. See Growth Fetish, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2003.
Emotional work encompasses what is also referred to as communicational work. It is that which deals
specifically with the maintenance of relationships and development of a positive psychological and
social climate within which other work may be carried out. For an insightful and comprehensive
discussion of power and emotion, see Megan Bolers Feeling Power: Emotion and Education, New
York: Routledge, 1999 which I draw upon in Chapter 4 in my exploration of emotion and sociality.
For an account of the concept of phenomenological place as elaborated by Edward Casey, see
Chapter 2 in the section titled Space, Place and Embodiment.
Bourdieus writings on the body are spread across several of his works. They include the following:
Bourdieu, P., Distinction, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1986.
Bourdieu, P., Le Sens practique, Paris: Minuit, 1980.
Bourdieu, P., Les usages sociaux du corps Annales ESC, 26(1), pp 205-233, 1971.
Lasch, Scott & Urry, John, Economies of Signs & Space London: Sage, 1994, See Chapter 5
Accumulating Signs: The Culture Industries, pp 111-144.
Noddings, op. cit., p. 122.
Crampton-Smiths observations are noted in Jeremy Myersons Tornadoes, T-squares and
Technology: Can Computing be a Craft?, Ch 11 in Peter Dormer (ed.), The Culture of Craft,
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997, pp 176-185.
These comments are part of an interview with Mike Casson conducted by Peter Dormer, influential
thinker and writer on contemporary craft issues and problems. They are included in Chapter 8 Craft
and the Turing Test for Practical Thinking, pp 137-157 in Peter Dormer (ed.), The Culture of Craft,
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997.
Levin, David Michael, The Bodys Recollection of Being: Phenomenological Psychology and the
Deconstruction of Nihilism, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985, Chapter 1 The Bearing of
Thought, p. 128.
Ibid., pp 128-129.
Bigwood, op. cit., p. 110.
Ynestra King is a social ecologist and feminist writing from the early 1980s onwards. She has
published a number of articles including Towards an Ecological Feminism and a Feminist Ecology
in J. Plant (ed.) Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism, Santa Cruz: New Society
Publishers, 1989, and Healing the Wounds: Feminism, Ecology and the Nature/Culture in I.
Diamond and G. F. Orenstein (eds), Reweaving the World, San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1990.
Youngs short paper titled Pregnant Embodiment is included in Body and Flesh: A Philosophical
Reader, Donn Welton (ed.), Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1998, pp 274-285.
Terkel, Studs, Working, New York: Pantheon Books, 1972.
The notion of work as a lifelong engagement conferring not just financial benefits but more
importantly psychological and even spiritual ones has a history. It has long been understood but the
modern notion of the dignity of such work, in other words the pride taken in the making of objects
for both use and ornament, did not really gain prominence until the Middle Ages with the rise of the
craft guilds and the pride taken in the production of the finest craftsmanship by families in which a



tradition of craft making was long established. There are, of course, strong religious associations with
work in the West, notably that of Puritanism and the Protestant ethic which I believe are highly
significant at the present time in certain parts of the world. The proving of ones worth through the
performance of work, so powerfully explicated by Weber, highlighted as the work ethic, a central
theme which has been subjected to sustained critique because of its emphasis on the belief that moral
worth is only attainable through delay of gratification and devotion to ones work no matter how
humble or apparently inconsequential in the larger social sphere such work may appear to be. It was
Marx, however, who provided the definitive account of man as labourer albeit as exploited, whose
work was alienated from his species being by virtue of the exploitation of such labour by capital.
Marxs work also was the source of the modern understanding of the psychological impact of wage
labour on the individual, providing a powerful and ultimately influential account of the manner in
which the proletariat became alienated from its true nature.



To be embodied is to be in touch with the world. Although in our various labours,
that world appears to us as object and therefore separate from our bodies,
nevertheless it is precisely by means of our myriad activities that we affirm our
connection with it. The reality of this connection may become obscured by a
preoccupation with the symbolic and formal aspect of cultural life, leading to a
conviction that human creation has transcended the merely physical or material. But
the fact that human beings have as their particular project the ceaseless making and
remaking of culture, does not render embodied creatural existence either invalid or
irrelevant. Human beings as embodied beings share creatural status with other
species while simultaneously constructing cultural life.1
Central to such creative activity is the functioning of emotion. As the contemporary philosopher Michael Stocker argues, without emotions it is not possible
to live a good human life.2 An endorsement of Stockers view should not be taken to
mean that I regard emotions as always positive in their content and effects. The
physical and psychological damage inflicted by emotions such as hatred, envy and
jealousy in personal, social and especially in political life, is obvious. But I would
see the root of all emotions as lying in prior events in the lives of individuals and
social groups which, over time, build a certain a reservoir of reactions and response,
these being played out as specific emotional responses subsequently in the life of the
individual or group. Among these will be complex feelings and their manifestations
that we variously characterise as negative or positive. The specifics of events and
contexts will obviously determine how these are made manifest, and with what
effects for those involved. Feminist writing of the past two decades and more, has
attempted to redress the traditional philosophical reason/emotion dichotomy,
revealing the manner in which cognition and emotion are inextricably intertwined
within the individual.3 This has had the effect of bringing emotion to the fore in
diverse discourses about subjectivity, emphasising its central role in all aspects of
life, including that of corporations and institutional structures.4
In this chapter I explore the ways in which emotion enters into the engagement
of embodied subjects in the multiplicity of practices enacting their joint social life.
Of particular interest are those events involving encounters with people we see as
different, not only because they do not seem to conform to cultural norms (for
example, they dont seem to appreciate those things mainstream society does), but
also because their bodies do not seem to belong either. Hence my emphasis is on
the manner in which sociality is generated and sustained through emotion in the




intersubjective relation rather than its dynamic within the individual. In other words
the focus of attention is what Negri calls the multiplicity of singularities in ever
changing relations with one another.5 The characterisation of emotion as irrational
because of its supposedly compulsive and disruptive nature, but also because of
its historic association with women and the feminine, is contested; likewise its
depiction as threat to the functioning of cognition and rationality. The philosophers
of the body, Nietzsche, Dewey and Merleau-Ponty, placed emotion at the very root
of all intersubjective encounters. Feminist philosopher Megan Boler affirms this and
anchors her own comprehensive analysis of emotion in education in the experiences
of her students, and in responding to her own classroom practice. The work of
sociologist J.M. Barbalet re-evaluates social theory in terms of its neglect or
distortion of emotion in public and institutional life. For each of these, emotion is
the mainspring not just for individual action but also for all social activity. With
each of these writers, I hold that emotions are the most significant indication that
human beings are uniquely fitted for social life, believing therefore as Boler does
that education must concern itself in fundamental ways with the emotional lives of
students and the endless variety of outcomes arising from emotional engagement
with a complex world.
Emotion and the social dimension of embodiment
Emotion as the very source of human behaviour was a major conceptual undergirding of Nietzsches work as a whole and was inextricable from his insistence on
the primacy of the body. Needs, drives and instincts interpret the world, one that is
constituted out of intersubjective relations. Indeed for Nietzsche it was the senses
that make the assessment of our connection with others of our species, not some
abstract rationality or cultural norms shaping and limiting consciousness. Emotion
therefore has the status of the generative point for all individual bodily dispositions,
orientations and attitudes. The affects, as he called them, were regarded as natural
powers: our primordial dispositions, the basic structures of psycho-physiological
being and the wellspring of human creativity. All emotions are fundamentally
connected with the overarching drive the will to power but many are generated
out of the basic needs of the body, including the desire for food and of course sexual
desire. Drives propel the physical body into the world, continuously turning it in this
or that direction, revealing the manner in which an embodied self is always in a
sense constantly being relocated by the competition between drives within the
individual body.
In the philosophy of Descartes and later in that of Kant, the thoughts that occur
in the minds of individuals are held to be the basis of their reasons for and decisions
to act in specific ways. The association of emotion with the body depicted it as inferior
to mind but also as problematic in relation to moral judgement. The capacity to



reason was held to be the identifying characteristic of the individual mind. For some
this seems to fit neatly with the idea that when individuals join in a collectivity, their
individuality as thinking being is somehow impaired. In other words emotion
stands accused of not merely encroaching on the rational deliberations of the individual
internally, but also more damagingly, when it intrudes into the social realm
(especially into those structures that have to do with regulation and control of
populations, as well as the market and its operation) it can undermine sound political
judgement and even government. The contemporary notion of group-think carries
the negative connotations of the submersion of the individuals rationality by the
emotions of the mob. Grounded in a view of the unique individual consciousness as under threat from the collective, it directs its fire against the apparent
depredat-ions brought about by what Maffesoli calls the emotional community.6
Such views, it seems to me, are themselves an expression of deep anxieties and
antagonism towards the action of groups in social life.
Despite recent analyses of emotion and its functioning both in intimate and
public life it continues to be cast as something distinct from the mental events that
occur for individuals in their daily lives. Emotion is still portrayed as an add-on
feature to the defining operation of cognition. But as Barbalet, the champion of the
notion of the social body argues, rather than being opposed to rationality, it is most
accurately portrayed as continuous with it. Properly understood, he argues, emotion
functions as a guide to and a preparation for the individuals social action, which is
itself the source of the generation of social relations.7 Human actors are bodies that
are emotional as well as rational, but without doubt they are the former before they
are the latter. Freuds account of emotions as instinctual energy or biological
function in the individual, shares with Nietzsches an acknowledgment of its source
in our animal nature. MacIntyre too emphasises that adult human behaviour has its
sources in early habits developed through emotional embodied engagement with
environment in the same way that it does for other species. Since Freud, others have
broadened and developed this conception of the origins of emotion, focusing on its
contribution to such processes as discernment, attachment, memory and judgement,
those features that for Barbalet constitute personality.8
Sociological analyses of the workings of emotion in modern social life under
conditions of capitalism have provided major insights into the ways that the social
forms peculiar to modernity with their attendant kinds of rationality, have variously
dealt with emotion.9 But there is a strong sense in which bodies tend to be merely
taken for granted in such work, for although they are obviously present in social life,
by and large, they are not really present in their corporeal specificity. This despite
the fact that in order to gain an understanding of social agency there must first be a
concept of embodied agency. As Lyon and Barbalet argue, the body cannot be seen
merely as subject to external forces: the emotions which move the person through
bodily processes must be understood as the source of agency.10 Barbalet reminds us
that our actual endowments and our purposes are made of the world we inhabit, and
are fabricated with the involvement of those with whom we share that world, that is



with other embodied subjects. From a philosophical viewpoint, Casey, whose work
on place I have already drawn upon in earlier chapters to give an account of
creatural existence, makes a closely related point when he shows how implacement
is a deeply social occurrence precisely because it is in concert, that we render our
(embodied) places meaningful. This rendering must always be emotional at its core.
Bodies inhabit their places in the world communicatively but bodies as action
and communication can only be so through the dynamic of emotion. Now while it is
true that identity is forged in the interplay of emotion within the individual, that
interplay is not merely a solitary affair for that individual, but has an essential
intersubjective aspect. People come to matter to each other only through emotional
involvements, through experiencing the emotional expressions of others who are
implicated in all sorts of ways with their own life projects. That is why I think in this
age of the spectacle which brings other peoples suffering right into our living
rooms, we need to resist the temptation to indulge in a kind of instant sympathy that
may afford us momentary gratification, but can soon dissipate as we pass on to the
next opportunity for passive observation of others misery. Empathy, as I will try to
demonstrate further on, begins in proximity: we learn how to care about others
because we have had some genuine experience of caring in our own backyard so to
speak. That backyard, by the way, may well include our non-human co-occupants
whose multisensoriality can extend into the world much further than our own. As we
experience such emotions as empathy we are affirmed in our spatio-temporal
existence, that is, within the different kinds of context in which we are implaced.
The emotions experienced are in important sense not mere mental events but are
located in the depths of our actual embodied engagement with the world in all of its
complexity. In terms of the social, therefore, emotions properly understood are never
reducible to the individual who experiences them, but neither I believe can it be said
that an individual can only experience those emotions his/her culture prescribes.
This sort of claim obviously requires an ontological basis and an epistemology
that will provide a convincing explanation of the relational. Phenomena will be
regarded as intrinsically non-isolated, but functionally related to, and contingent
upon external physiological and behavioural processes, as part of those ongoing
processes which constitute real dynamic situations. The Deweyan conception of the
nature of world and human being shares with Meads the conviction that consciousness is the actual process itself of an individual organisms response to environment.
Relations and objects as relation are not established in terms of general principles
of mental associations on the basis of atomistic data or objects. Rather they are encountered already intrinsically related within nature in terms of the way in which the
individual tends to select, manipulate or reconstruct them. It is the dynamic, active
character in the transactions of individuals, that determines the always-related
objects of consciousness and those of the world of reality. Meanings or objects
arising for individual consciousness are derived from, or presuppose, the common
meanings or objects in social situations. This is a very strong statement of the



relational nature of human individuals, how they are socially constituted and the
way they have knowledge of their world.
According to this view, different experiences undergone by individuals
presuppose a common perspective. This is a view radically opposed to the familiar
notion of the isolated individual knower who must make strenuous and ultimately
very problematic efforts to effect a connection with others if she is to share what she
knows with them and they with her. In contrast, it seems to me entirely plausible to
accept that individual selves emerge from the social process of relations as aspects
of situations. In my view this is the kind of perspectivity that we find not only in the
work of Dewey, Nietzsche and Merleau-Ponty but also in that of Mead. In Meads
writing for example, perspective had both an evolutionary and a genetic dimension.
Hence the order of emergence was not only logical but also historical and
biological.11 As he saw it, the task was to emphasise the temporal and logical preexistence of the social process for the self-conscious individual arising with it. He
therefore recognised the need to explain the social process of behaviour in terms
of fundamental biological and physiological relations and interactions such as
reproduction or the cooperation required for mutual protection and sustenance of
social relations. So for him, mind could not have arisen except out of the
(embodied) environment. Patterns of social relations are therefore presupposed in
his account of human consciousness.
In Deweys work everything exists to further conscious life, but not in terms of a
subject/object separation or as that otherness of materiality which is produced by
philosophical idealism with its privileging of transcendent principles. Mind and
self are derived from the biosocial process, involving above all intercommunication
and activity. The implication is that a sensate, complex and dynamic view of the
individual/social relationship is necessary if we are to do justice to the complexities
of embodied subjectivity. Social systems themselves are built up from the projects,
tasks and commitments of bodies. The body must be configured therefore as
simultaneously medium and outcome of social body techniques, while society itself
is both medium and outcome of the sum of individual corporeal techniques. For
Dewey the social body is not something separate from society itself but quite simply
encompasses the endless variety of ways in which, by associating together, people
share their experiences and develop their common aims and interests. Society is
nothing more less than the process of associating in certain ways so that experience,
ideas, emotions, values are transmitted and made common. Society consists of
individuals in their relationship to each other. Because individuals are always
attuned to each other, their embodied character constitutes the everyday interaction
between body-subjects. It is, however, the interaction that generates all meaning and
thus we can say that subjectivities are developed fundamentally through a process of
In Experience and Education, Dewey described the continued growth of fleshand-blood human beings in their social relations, noting that life is this very growth
and development and nothing more.12 Education therefore has as its end this ongoing



interaction of embodied individuals in their social context. In this way Deweyan

naturalism reveals its social character meaning, which is undeniably social,
emerges from embodied cooperative human activity. By ongoing participation in the
activities of a group, body-subjects learn to respond with habitual orientations to the
charged stimuli of their environments. Embodied communication is quite simply
the way in which, over time, people grasp things in common and come to partake of
communication in a common understanding. The social dimension to Deweys
understanding of human embodiment is clearly outlined in his account of the unity
of the human being, where he insists that the boundaries by which we mark off a
human being are very different from the energies and organisation of energies,
which make her a unified human being. Whereas we can grasp the boundaries the
skin at a single moment, on the other hand we can grasp the unity only as
something occurring in a stretch of time. This is an indispensable insight, I think,
one which allows us to understand human embodiment not only as an organism in
itself (it is undeniably that) but also as an open-ended system operating within larger
human and non-human systems.
Dewey takes up the theme of the emotions as they function to construct and
maintain that sociality, which in turn constitutes human subjectivity. In his view it is
clear that ongoing interactions with others is the wellspring of emotional (visceral)
reactions. That which he calls the emotional life hinges on the kinds of responses
we constantly give to living situations situations that are invariably generated out
of human embodied interaction and through the complete interpenetration of self
and humanly constituted actions and events. Embodied experience is the fulfilment
of the organism in its struggles and achievements in a socially constructed world of
meanings. Merleau-Pontys discussion of carnality as the social dimension of
embodiment, complements that of Deweys in important respects. He presents the
practice of communication as always generated from within social contexts and
therefore always pertaining to the specificities of individual body-subjects
situatedness. As I have suggested earlier in this work, we speak from our place to
others also placed, that is, positioned in space, or as Cataldi describes it
ecologically niched.13 Bodies speak and are spoken to in this communicative
configuration. Such an account of embodiment shows it as elaborating a
semiotics and culture across, not just within species in connection with the nonhuman environment.
The conclusion to be drawn from my analysis of embodied subjectivity in
preceding chapters is that a viable conception of human embodiment must move
beyond the simple biologically bounded form to include its social relations with
other embodied beings. When we theorise the body as more than the mere individual
body we can, without abandoning the usefulness of the notion of the inscribed body,
direct our attention to the emotionally charged agent of embodied praxis. It
is, as I have argued, the body that is embedded always within material social
relations. In the Introduction I identified some of these relations as familial and
intimate, sexual and affectionate, as instantiated in child-raising, domestic life and



friendships. They are to be found in work relationships where material and symbolic
processes are collectively carried out, but also in civic activities in which, through
their presence and engagement with others, embodied selves live the social order.
In all of these situations and events, emotion can be seen in its causes and
effects. However, until recently, it has been treated as inappropriate for large-scale
organisational arrangements generally, being regarded as alien to the operation of
corporate and institutional life. Its long association with the feminine and childhood,
and by implication with immaturity or instability, has reinforced this view of human
existence as being essentially about the exercise of reason, especially in public
environments such as workplaces. While there have been important attempts to
remedy this, it is still true that in dominant discourses emotions are at best
marginalised while rationality is privileged as a personal and social ideal. Such
representations continue to do embodied social actors a disservice when they fail to
acknowledge corporeality in its intersubjective, affective dimension. The insights of
Dewey and Merleau-Ponty have a significant contribution to make in reminding us
that emotion has a fundamental role in the forging of community, and hence in the
building of collective morality through the implementation of commitment to social
As I have suggested in earlier chapters, since it is through the senses that people
feel, then it is through the emotions that an individuals activity has direction and
force. This has important ramifications for a deeper understanding of intersubjective
relations, in particular for the attempt we make to understand the position of others,
to put ourselves in their place. Contrary to rationalist thinking, the situation of others
is best understood not by assuming a position of disinterestedness or dispassion, nor
by attempting to abstract a general principle about who is or is not worthy of our
attention and sympathy, but rather, by means of various kinds of emotional
engagement with their circumstances, including what Irigaray refers to as making
ones way in loving speech.14 It is the bringing into being of an empathic relationship that enables the emergence of genuine fellow-feeling.
The idea of empathy has a long history, beginning with notions of empathetic
participation in early philosophical and religious thought to nineteenth-and-twentieth
century reformulations and contemporary claims about what is involved in feeling
empathy with others. A detailed treatment of this history is well beyond the scope of
this book. What is important, however, for the present exploration, is the manner in
which materiality (embodiment) is incorporated into ideas about how one may
achieve social unity or harmonious sociality through affective bonding of a kind and
intensity that may effect genuine compassion for others. The undeniable corporeal
dimension of those processes by which we acknowledge our simultaneous sameness
and difference is the focus of my brief exploration of what is involved in that fellowfeeling we sometimes experience and the action we take in the interests of the
welfare of others. My particular interest lies in the emotional complexity that is
involved in feeling compassion for our fellow citizens and especially for those who
may not be citizens at all, but who nonetheless have a claim on our sympathy



because of their social disadvantage or suffering. It is the imaginative use of feeling

which constitutes empathy that is I think, central to the enhancement of positive
sociality in the world.
Bodies in relation empathy as intercorporeality
As I noted above, empathy is a theme with a long history, certain aspects of which I
will very briefly explore further on. It is also one about which an enormous amount
has been written, especially in recent times, not least in relation to the cultivation of
civic virtues or democratic dispositions but also in varieties of discussion about how
to understand and treat those who are socially inscribed as different. It has been
depicted as a key component of what has been called by Goleman and others
emotional intelligence. Among other claims made for it, Boler points out that it
can be conceived as a bridge between social groups who are not part of a
mainstream culture, and is proffered as the engine which may drive the process of
genuine democratic dialogue among dominant and subordinated groups. Relating
this to classroom practice, Boler, however, like Nussbaum, worries that it may
simply slide into a kind of passive empathy in which empathetic readers, wellintentioned nevertheless, must restrict their empathising to a mere passive acknowledgement of wrongs done to powerless others and the expression of words of
commiseration. Thus while empathetic readers may gain insights into the
disadvantage or suffering of others through their examination of different kinds of
text, they may well not go beyond this, stymied by the abstract nature of texts, their
own remoteness from the actual sites of suffering and their isolation as individuals
in a world which does little to foster genuine corporeal connection. Boler is right, I
think, to be wary of this kind of empathising which limits itself to looking from a
distance, so to speak, on the sufferings of others. As my analysis of the scopic
regime in Chapter 1 suggest, it is relatively easy to be horrified by film, photograph
or newspaper reports or books of misfortune, but another matter to engage in
embodied action to address such misfortune. Such activity may well numb the
viewer/reader, such that the act of viewing or reading is reduced to what Boler sees
as a kind of consumption of the other.
This concern of Bolers must be taken seriously, I believe, especially in the light
of what I have said in previous chapters about the consumption of images in
contemporary society. However, I agree strongly with her that empathy is something
we do not want to lose and that it involves an absolutely crucial process of emotional
engagement with socially excluded groups, and indeed with all social interaction.
My own classroom experience, especially in teaching Indigenous students, leads me
to emphasise once again the embodied nature of human interactions and therefore to
call for a renewed attention to the fact of corporeal grounding of all emotion,
especially empathy.
The roots of the notion of empathy were actually material and ideational or
mental, drawing upon the idea of duality becoming one, and of the participation of



the many in the one: they are aesthetic and biological, the former emphasising the
organic assimilation of multiple members in the one body, the latter the genetic
process of procreation.15 Within the conceptualisation a further division was
established, that of the static against the dynamic, referring to the combination of
disparate elements in a whole (as in a work of art or a totality of some kind in the
natural world). From this commonality the two derived their preoccupation with
emotion through which a bonding of the material world and human beings occurs.
The specific aspect of existence foregrounded was the relation between heart and
mind, intellect and the passions, cognition and affect. However, in its various
subsequent transformations this connection remained underdeveloped.16 Bodies,
though obviously involved in empathy or love, somehow have come to play a lesser
role than that of the spiritual.
More contemporary accounts of what is involved in empathising have
foregrounded different aspects. Among these is Heideggers on language and
dialogue, Gadamer on listening, and Canetti on genuine hearing of others voices.
In criticising our detached way of knowing and our insistence on mastery through
speaking, Heidegger uses the expression to dwell in describing genuine attempts to
listen to others. Gadamer argues that the claim to understand the other person in
advance performs the function of keeping the claim of the other person at a distance.
Understanding in advance shows that the bearer of rationality mistakenly believes
himself capable of speaking (that is, thinking or reasoning) before he listens,
whereas in genuinely dialogic moments there is a very demanding interaction of
opposites in which genuine listening may unfold. Gadamer reminds us that those
who see themselves as the holders of a standardising rationality have most often
forced the role of listener upon those who have lesser or no right to speak.17
Canetti holds that true empathy involves the capacity to both feel strongly and to
think, the capacity to hear others as well as to take them seriously in a never-ending
In my understanding of it, empathy creates a milieu within which acceptance and
genuine validation of anothers presence in all its difference demands that affects,
emotional states and understandings may be explored. The blindness to
commonality and the simultaneous fear of difference, that characterise much of
social interaction is inimical to empathy. When empathy comes into play, it enables
people to discern situations requiring a moral response (as in attempting to see that
all are treated equally in a situation of competing benefits). But it seems to me that
empathy is also required in the process of actually identifying morally significant
considerations, since to act morally one must surely need to be able to identify
opportunities to do so. And identifying such opportunities involves attempting to
grasp what others are experiencing, hence the need to remind ourselves of the
corporeal realities of our existence, and that ultimately it is human bodies which
make claims on the compassion of their embodied fellows. It is, after all, bodies that
suffer, and it is the individual body which, in the final analysis, will draw the line
when that suffering has become too great to bear.



Acknowledging embodiment is essential to a viable account of empathy because

bodies are first and foremost spatially located and it is the relation of place and
space that is primordially given in the social relationship between self and other. In
psychoanalytic terms, if place is seen as a focus of value of nurture and support then
the mother is initially the childs primary place. This indicates that an individuals
incipient sense of place lies in the to and fro movement of attachment and loss,
separation and reunion, distance and nearness. Further, as Merleau-Ponty has shown,
the landscape in which we dwell our world whether we are conscious of it or not,
is also a social map whose legend we learn. Despite the apparent bifurcations of
modern life we share with others a common language, which is the language not of
minds but of embodied subjectivities.
Renewed attention to the somatic rescues subjectivity from its exclusive association
with a rational consciousness and its confinement as judgement divorced from affect
or emotion. It also encompasses a move to a conception of body subjects as
grounded in everyday activities, many of which have profound social relevance but
which we frequently tend to overlook. As such it involves recognition of that
thinking through our skin, the encountering of the hands, not just eyes, which
characterises so much of ordinary social intercourse but which tends to be ignored at
the discursive level. But most importantly it forces us to explicitly consider the body
as we explore major aspects of intersubjectivity and social practice, in particular the
dynamic of empathy. Merleau-Pontys work, despite the fact that it lacks an
adequate sexualised somatics, nonetheless draws attention to this dynamic thereby,
allowing us better to grasp in its fullness and complexity, the idea of body subjects
as relation.
But Merleau-Pontys is by no means the only work illuminating empathic
relations in their radical materiality. For Marx, what distinguished human beings
from other animals was not self-consciousness but consciousness of the species.19
For him, social interaction was the natural expression of species being. This
implied a specific ethical stance: the surrender of ones self-being to that of another,
and when required, the sacrifice of ones own being to that of others. The individual
could in effect gain through the awareness of humanity as a species when she or he
recognised and embraced the principle of human solidarity. In Marxs materialism
this takes the form of the bodys ceasing to be identical with itself, and opening out
onto a shared world within which the needs and desires of the one must always be
addressed at the same time as those of others. As such it is an expression of the
materiality of being-together a necessary component of genuine empathy. At the
present time the sensuous depletion of our sympathy for others is the major obstacle
to the development of a kind of empathy that will lead to action.20 Genuine empathy
can only arise through an appreciation of the others suffering that is corporeal in
character, acknowledging that their deprivation is a bodily matter and that its
alleviation must be approached by means of a full understanding of that embodied



In his major work The Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty portrays

perception as the creation of meaning through the fact that something is seen or felt
by body-subjects. This perspective on subjectivity emphasises the basically
relational nature of the subject and the body as the ground of all possibility
for communication. In this respect Merleau-Ponty anticipates the work of
psychoanalytic feminism with its insistence on relationship as the basis for human
development. It is the understanding of the grounding of human interaction in
embodiment that is fundamental to all moral deliberation, including specifically
those questions about how we should engage with others who appear different from
ourselves. Indeed Merleau-Pontys account of embodied subjectivity suggests that
if individuals cannot in a strong sense live other lives as well as their own, then
they will be unable to fully live their own. Fanciful as it may appear, such a claim
with its vivid empathics of the body entails an ethics of the body grounded in a
fundamental sociality.
The relevance of this for intersubjective understanding lies in the fact that
perceiving subjects are not confined within their own private worlds but are
implaced within a world (made up of a myriad of sites) which is shared by all, no
matter what their differences. The significant point is that because each individuals
visual field is not strictly her own, that is it crosses and intertwines with others
constantly, then there is a very real sense in which we can talk of a shared world.
What is suggested here is a primordial carnal bond between human subjects,
indicating that embodied subjects are connected in their belonging to a common
world. This situation is most evocatively captured in the term intercorporeality.21
The conceptual bedrock of the notion of intercorporeality is one that I have
repeatedly emphasised throughout earlier chapters, that we are our bodies. This
means that all of our thoughts, feelings, emotions and intentions are understood as
assuming an embodied and thus visible form through language and other culturally
shaped actions. Subjectivity is publicly available and therefore a realm of genuine
intersubjectivity is possible. The thoughts, emotions and intentions we have in
relation to others are available to all. In Merleau-Pontys words, intersubjectivity is
always concrete intersubjectivity because, like Dewey and Nietzsche, he admitted of
no absolute division between the realm of ideas and the material world. Meanings
are always embodied as subjectivities and all of matter (including Latours
conception of the non-human) embodies meaning, assuming its place in the world
only through such meaning. Hence culture itself in a profound sense is embodied;
bodies act, and by such actions construct worlds of meaning and intersubjective
relations, while in the context of these relations, bodies are themselves acted upon.
Merleau-Pontys articulation of a notion of intercorporeality provides an
enlarged view of all human being, including those practices which we label thinking,
knowing and judgement. The key role of judgement in the modern Western account
of ethics and its insistence on the expression of that judgement by way of language,
has over-intellectualised what is involved in the choices people make about how
they treat others. It ignores that stage in the process which involves empathic



engagement with them. Thus moral reasoning in its dominant forms relies on the
operation of impartial reason at the expense of empathically obtained insights about
others. The idea that living is about empathising through intercorporeality, however,
shifts our attention from the notion of living as the exercise of intellectual
judgement. Empathic knowing, seen as an exercise of the embodied subjects
sensory practices, unavoidably involves others and draws our attention to the
realities of human existence, which consists of acting, living and moving in an
intersubjective world. MacIntyres dependent rational animal achieves virtue first
and foremost through her intersubjectivity.
Merleau-Pontys insights provide a rich source of emancipatory imagery,
challenging us to explore and extend his innovative account of the nature of the
intersubjective encounter. Empathy emerges from his work as implicit in all
intersubjective relations. Such an understanding demonstrates how the senses and
intellect, emotion, nature and that which we call culture are reciprocally implicated
in all human activity, even that of the ethical domain. The account of creatural
existence I have tried to develop in this work has implicit in it a demand for an ethic
of everyday social life. Such an ethic would have its starting point in a deep sense of
shared world, not one that is separate from us, but one in which we can make visible
how the world, human and non-human, natural and cultural, touches us. The
insight that the seeing which occurs in ordinary perception is a kind of a shorthand
for touch and basic connection, is for me one of the most significant in MerleauPontys work and therefore indispensable to the present discussion of embodied
Embodied emotion and the haptic:Touch and the social
We speak commonly of being touched by the plight of a starving child or remaining
untouched by an accuseds claim that he was driven to commit a violent attack on a
victim because of a disadvantaged childhood. Our hands continue to connect us to
others and the non-human world, long after our eyes and ears may have ceased to do
so. We lose touch with friends and colleagues and sometimes in old-age are only
touched by our companion animals. Our bodys connection is with the worldat-hand. Obviously touch is a sense with unique qualities in that it crosses the other
senses, combining with them to furnish, for all animal species including the human,
an absolutely essential connection with the other living sytems that constitute
environment for all creatures. Merleau-Pontys last work The Visible and the
Invisible deals precisely with the criss-crossing of touch with the other senses. It is
for my purposes therefore particularly significant for the deeper understanding of the
relationships between individuals and groups, but also their relation to everything
else in the world. Merleau-Pontys profoundly insightful account of relatedness
among not just humans but other species and the earth depends on a radical
interpretation of the relationship between two of the senses those of the sight and



Signalling his departure from the philosophical traditions version of the

distinction between sight and touch, Merleau-Ponty provides a compelling account
of the way in which our individual perspectives as embodied subjects intersect in the
same world. In the tradition, vision is distinguished from touch by the fact that while
the toucher is always touched in the act of making connection with an object
(person, cat, tree or house), the one who sees on the other hand merely does so from
a distance and is therefore not implicated in what is seen. In my discussion of the
scopic regime in Chapter 1, I attempted to show what critics of ocularcentrism have
objected to in terms of the cultural effects of an over-valuation of vision. Not only is
the fullness and complexity of the experiencing body downplayed, but vision is
extracted from its relationship to the other senses and its function of standing in for
touch is overlooked in favour of a predatory and aggressive role in the maintenance
of power relations in social life. Merleau-Pontys writing on the manner in which
those of others intersect the particular view open to each embodied creature in a
particular milieu, provides a different way of conceiving of our joint embeddedness
in a landscape as coparticipants.
This discussion of the tangible underscores a determination to depict both
subject and object in a generalisable visibility, which is for each the same
visibility; it is the key to his articulation of the flesh ontology. The latter is a theory
of being, that emphasises the role of perception in demonstrating our fundamental
condition of belonging to larger whole (being of the same flesh), to which however
we can only have limited access. From this discussion of flesh comes the insight that
everyone who sees is simultaneously in view, as it were, to another. Our landscapes
intersect not only with our fellow human beings but also with the non-human and
even the so-called inanimate. However, this is not a simplistic indulgence in
anthropomorphism on the part of Merleau-Ponty, but rather a major claim about a
non-entitative, non-identical materiality shared by both the subjects and the objects
of perception. As such it fits with the Deweyan relational ontology referred to
above. Flesh furnishes the capacity for turning the world back on itself, to bring
into play its reflexivity. So subject and object are inherently open to each other for
they are constituted in the one stroke, separating the flesh of the world into its
distinct modalities. The individual herself as body-subject is an experienced structure,
the things outside of the body being encrusted in its joints. Lived human experience
is thus a seamless web, a unified zone of awareness, the integrity of which is altered
unavoidably through those processes of abstraction that must accompany all
attempts at objectification.
Merleau-Pontys articulation of the criss-crossing of the senses in acts of
perception was described in Chapter 1. That aspect of his work demonstrates the
subtle transferences that take place between, say, tactile and taste experiences, as for
example the manner in which a finely carved and polished surface of a small
sculpture can be subliminally sensed by the tongue, or the way in which certain
colours or shapes can evoke particular oral or aural sensation. Then the flesh
ontology of The Visible and the Invisible allows us to see the criss-crossing of



subjectivities in perception, including especially the emotional expenditure that

occurs with each and every perceptual episode experienced by individuals. As such
it reveals not only the working of embodied agency in a common social life, but also
serves to connect with the operating of emotion in the articulation of that social
agency. Perceptual psychology (which focuses upon what the perceiving organism
brings to the process of perception) complements Merleau-Pontys work on
embodied feeling as the very centre of sociality by means of perception. Moreover,
because of the central role of touch, such work reinforces a strong sense of
James Gibsons account of the haptic system provides a significant
understanding of how, as a basic function of our creatural existence, we are able to
lay hold of that world, which is adjacent to each body-subject, by means of that
body.22 The haptic system is the mode by which we gain information about our own
bodies and simultaneously about the environment in which we find ourselves at any
given time. But the haptic system encompasses the body in its entirety, that is, most
of its parts and its entire surface. As Gibson tells us, the extremities are simultaneously sense organs and performatory motor organs; therefore, the equipment in
operation for feeling is anatomically the same as the equipment for doing. Now,
while it is true that Gibsons feeling refers to touch in a very literal, almost
biological sense, and not specifically to emotion as it has been traditionally
portrayed, nevertheless as Lyon and Barbalet argue and I agree, the haptic system is
best understood as part of a dynamic and social process of social touch, for the
simple but compelling reason that only the haptic system with all of its subsystems
that is, all of the senses, intertwining comes into full perceptual use.23 But all the
systems are extensions of the sense of touch and it is a deeper understanding of the
concept of touch that will underlie any meaningful account of social embodiment
and the generation of that fellow feeling that is the basis for solidarity. In my view,
therefore, genuine empathy must begin with this awareness of corporeal connection.
While aware that in the dominant cognitive discourse the world is an objective
entity for a thinking subject, Merleau-Ponty focuses upon the moments of daily
living in which, as subjects, we interpenetrate the world and are fused with it.
Genuine intersubjective engagement, whose wellspring is emotion, lies at the very
heart of his account of embodiment. Hence his focus on the manner in which touch
occurs and the complex processes of intertwining of world and embodied subjects.
In his work there are no ontological cracks between persons and nature, the self
and world, between what exists (the issue for traditional philosophy) and what
we say about what exists: they are one and the same. Merleau-Pontys account of
body subject and flesh demand that we attend anew to the connectedness of
body subject to world and of the immersion-in-world that is the reality of human
existence. Surprisingly, perhaps, Merleau-Pontys account of the flesh of the world
that which connects human and other animals and the non-human has an affinity
with Latours notion of the folding of the human and non-human in the moment of
practice. In doing away altogether with objects which subjects grasp, while



retaining a dualism between the two, it seems to me that despite their different
objectives, both Merleau-Ponty and Latour make radical attempts to overcome that
ancient dualism.
The definition of things, their discontinuities with all other realities and the habit
of referring to borders which demarcate oneself and all possible others (human and
non-human) is just one way of talking about experience. It is the one most familiar
to us. But realities alter dramatically when different aspects of human existence are
foregrounded: for example, the aspect of place or locatedness within environment,
or a sense of connection with a particular person or place. We can focus on the
notion of subject as rationality personified, or the self as an arrangement of bodily
parts and thoughts and feelings, or we can focus on subjects as inscribed within
gendered or racial discourses. Or we can take the perspective with Merleau-Ponty
that it is not so much that every reality has an inherent structure, but rather that
structure can be seen to inhere in a whole range of realities within and across bodies
of different kinds, including those of the non-human. What such a view contains
within it is a conception of the material as an inherent intertwining of subject and
world. It is a conceptualisation of materiality, which does not demand a split
between human corporeality and the corporeality of nature. Ultimately this conception
of materiality, which clearly has a cosmological dimension, includes everything in
and of the world. As such, it seems to me, it is a cosmology for the difficult times in
which we live and one that has much to recommend it to educators and the
enterprise of teaching and learning.
Masculinity, feminity and emotion A dualistic legacy
Any discussion of emotion, education and embodiment must confront the association
of emotion with what has been constructed as the feminine, not least because of its
persistence in contemporary educational theory, curriculum, practice and even research.
Feminists have contributed a great deal to unravelling the deeply entrenched set of
beliefs about the natural connection of women to the affective. Whether attributed
to Greek philosophy or to later periods in the Western philosophical tradition, the
setting of the feminine (emotional) against the masculine (rational) has persisted
despite varieties of thoroughgoing critique in so many aspects of social life,
including educational policy. Discussions of embodiment and emotion cannot be
carried out effectively, I believe, without a full acknowledgement of the very long
and deep-seated association of the male female and reason emotion dualisms.
Bolers work on emotion and education provides, amongst other things, a most
comprehensive account of varieties of analyses, together with reporting from her
own experiences as a teacher in university. In her account of both the historical and
contemporary debates over emotion, Boler assesses the Western philosophical and
psychological tendencies to regard emotion as natural or as occurring entirely
within the individual, but most particularly its long association with women and
what had been constructed as the feminine. A major theme in her work involves a



critical examination of the contributions that feminist post-structuralist theory,

feminist theories of emotion and feminist consciousness-raising can make to analyses
of feminist pedagogies, seeing the necessity for ongoing conversations among these
in order to better understand and articulate feeling power in educational settings.
Like Barbalet, Boler sees emotion as reflecting the dynamics of ones specific
lived situation which, by definition, will always include the social. For her, as for
Dewey, emotions are inseparable from action and relations, and therefore from
issues of power. As her analysis of the history of emotion in education shows, it has
always been bound up with issues of social control and management, with notions of
non-conformity in the individual and therefore with conceptions of normalcy and
social acceptability. Her analysis of social control of emotion, both past and present,
addresses those questions of how views of the functioning of emotion change under
the influences of distinct social and political agendas. This historical approach is
especially useful because it shows how emotions have variously been disciplined,
ignored and at times completely suppressed in both educational theory and in
classroom practices. In this respect Bolers work is invaluable in showing how
emotion within institutions was articulated in relation to specific social groups such
as females, or those of other races or cultures. An example from the Australian
context is that of the ways in which the emotions of Aboriginal people at various
times in Australias history were interpreted as evidence of their inability to adjust to
mainstream culture.
As Boler shows, feminist theorising has provided some of the most insightful
analyses of emotion in its basically social character. It has successfully opened up an
understanding of the manner in which the old public/private division of life
relegated women and their subjective emotional tendencies to the domestic sphere
while simultaneously ruthlessly disciplining emotion in the public realm, the world
of work and of politics. Such feminist anlaysis has also enhanced more recent
understandings of the role of emotion in the workforce and in public life generally.
Nevertheless it has also served to problematise the manner in which emotions are
lived out in the embodied and particularised experience of daily life. What such
analyses have also demonstrated are the very real difficulties to be faced when
trying to articulate this particularity. Moreover as Bolers exploration of the
dominant discourses of emotion the man of reason, the medicalised and scientific
and the religious reveal, displaying inappropriate emotion has not only often
been regarded as a feminine weakness, but has also served to reinforce the notion of
emotion as an expression of the individuals interior feelings. Thus ones emotions
were a function of ones being an individual but at the same time a member of a
social grouping to whom an inferior form of rationality was attributed. The supposed
location of emotion in a natural (mindless) body coupled with (the old
nature/culture dualism) further contributed to their being ignored, or treated with
considerable suspicion. The idea that emotions were not learnt but were something
that burst forth from our animal bodies at inappropriate moments in human affairs,
emphasised their connection with animality, viewed as not amenable to rational



organisation or control. As I have attempted to argue elsewhere in this book the

denigration of the connection with non-human animals and the idea of a legislating,
transcendent (disembodied) consciousness, are part of our failure to respect the
intelligence of the bodies, which includes its emotions.
As I understand her, Bolers view is that the emotion/reason split is built into
many of the attempts feminists have mounted to deal with a feminist politics of
emotion. Moreover it seems deeply ingrained in many areas of social life at present,
and education is by no means an exception to this. Boler notes the suspicion with
which emotion as a topic is greeted in scholarly circles within higher education: the
privileging of reason or intellect over the emotional is encountered at the level of
funding of research projects and also in the kind of writing that is afforded highest
status. Boler sees us as trapped by the well-worn dualism which continues to
associate the feminine with soft subjects in the curriculum, those which explicitly
or implicitly deal with feelings. There is widespread misunderstanding that to
focus upon the emotions in the classroom or the curriculum will lead to indulgence
in uncritical sharing of feelings, to therapeutic activities that encourage touching or
feeling but have little to do with real knowing. There is also the deep suspicion of
the practice of resorting to the individuals own life experience what are your
feelings? and the concern that this can weaken considerably the thrust of much that
is politically useful in raising the status and performance of disadvantaged groups. A
common criticism is that such suggestions for practice only come from feminists
who themselves are accused of insisting upon associating the emotional with the
feminine in attempting to articulate new pedagogies which respect students
experiences. Bolers response is to point to those writers such as Freire who deal
with emotion but who have not been negatively labelled. Clearly the gender of the
writer continues to have ramifications for how a work is received!
The strength of Bolers work on education and emotion lies in its boldly meeting
head-on, so to speak, some of the major areas of confrontation in the teaching of
humanities and social sciences curriculum. Her specific theme of sexuality and in
particular gay and lesbian sexuality is examined in terms of real and practical
classroom issues and problems, based on her own experience. Here she is most
mindful of the passions which such issues can evoke in classrooms in which there
are deeply felt beliefs and attitudes about what is normal in regard to sexual
orientations and practice. She is able to help students at least begin to see what has
been involved in the construction of their identities, assisting them to better
understand the fragility and precariousness of each and, most significantly, how
subjectivities maintain themselves in complex and delicate relation to others.
Unravelling what lies at the heart of ones deeply felt beliefs can be a most painful
experience for both teachers and students, one that can disrupt the apparently
smooth transfer of curriculum knowledge.
I find Bolers notion of a pedagogy of discomfort a useful means of exploring
matters of deeply entrenched attitudes about those who do not fit mainstream
stereotypes: of what is, for her, a way of problematising issues such as sexuality and



race so that it will challenge students to risk disclosure of often passionately held
beliefs about others ways of life, and in the process perhaps divulge entrenched
forms of prejudice. Quite rightly, Boler acknowledges the difficulties that this can
involve for students especially, but often for teachers. Emotion comes to the fore in
such encounters. It is simply not the case that classroom discussion will be carried
out in abstract theoretical terms. On the contrary it involves taking the measure
of ourselves and others in ways that on occasion will inevitably make us uncomfortable, precisely because it reveals to us how we have been shaped, what that
shaping has made us feel and how the latter rises to the surface whenever we look
deeply into the sources of our beliefs and attitudes.
The pedagogy of discomfort connects usefully to my own account of
embodiment. The core of such a pedagogy is the realisation that such beliefs are
embodied habits, that is, in the language of both Merleau-Ponty and Dewey, the
dispositions to respond in certain habituated ways when faced with specific
circumstances. As such they are an expression of our creatural existence. But this
does not mean that they are not amenable to modification and perhaps improvement,
simply because they are an integral aspect of our animality. On the contrary, like
other species, though our habitual behaviours towards others may be rooted in our
animal nature, we are always able to correct or reshape them in a directly
embodied way through our perception of changes in the world (for example, that our
neighbours whom we have been socialised to fear and loathe are very much like
ourselves) and new awareness that because of actions we have undertaken we have
changed situations in a world made up of infinitely complex relationships of human
and non-human animals with the non-animate. Practising a pedagogy of discomfort
seems to me a very direct way of reminding teachers and their students alike that
their lives have both contour, depth and colour and that without these the true
possibilities of relationship will remain unrealised.
Emotion and sociality in education
As I have suggested, a particular strength of Bolers work on emotion in education is
the close attention she gives to making her analysis refer directly to classrooms,
building upon her own experience in higher education to draw out implications for
future practice. Her focus is on the emotional climate of classrooms in which
socially excluded groups those whose stories do not form part of the official forms
of knowledge that make up the curriculum experience powerlessness. Identifying
an emotional numbness on the part of student populations, she associates this with
their lack of power in the pedagogical situation. Often in the more traditional
masculine classroom it is the emotional needs of the teacher that are being met: the
massaging of ego, the ways in which the teacher will have the final word on what is
to be known and the sense of being in authority needs that are much more likely to
be attended to than those of the students. Because much of her critique is aimed at
the dominance of a masculine paradigm of the teacher as authority figure and the



curriculum as masculinist, she is keen to show how emotional epistemology or

literacy can be part of the educational agenda without sacrificing rigour and, indeed,
even enhancing opportunities for the development of critical thinking about social
Obviously educators will want to develop an understanding of how desire and
the affective domain are grounded in basic corporeality their own and that of their
students. Many teachers already possess such understanding, especially those who
work with younger children. Part of renewed attention to emotion may involve a
re-evaluation of contextual modes of thought and emotional components of reason
in the everyday lives of students, in order to better grasp affective initiatives and
responses by individuals in the classroom. As I noted in the Introduction, cognitive
scientists, philosophers and others traditionally have been uncomfortable with
bodiliness, resulting in its being limited to certain disciplinary areas both within
teacher education courses and in school curricula. Not surprisingly the body has
been largely absent from work on academic performance and achievement, except in
those areas claiming to be the bodys special preserve. Somatic experience, motility
and gesture do not figure prominently in research into the processes of knowledgegaining and general living. There is a strong tendency to overlook the reality of
embodiment in accounts of the construction of human knowledge and this is echoed
in much research on how and what students know. In articulating what is entailed in
the making of the epistemic subject, corporeality, emotionality and the relational are
mere shadows that haunt the margins of the stage upon which pure reason (as we
still see it) plays out its fictions.
As I have argued earlier, practical consciousness is the particular realm of the
body and emotion, and because of this it has been confined to particular areas of the
curriculum where it can be domesticated and carefully distributed. Therefore it
seems to me that education for embodiment must claim for itself a specific role in
helping individuals access the realm of practical consciousness. This will surely
include processes to assist them in understanding how it is that they react to others
and how they will deal with them socially and ethically. For individuals to come to
an understanding of this dimension they need to grasp the centrality of emotions
to perception, the affects of prior experience on our present conduct and the
complexities of the operation of desire in constructing the choices, preferences and
judgments we make in interacting with others. The maintenance and enhancement of
the body is the mainspring of the desire to know; yet education still privileges
knowledge removed from everyday human experience and emotion, the domain of
practical consciousness.
The kinds of curricula which I think foster the understanding of the distinction
between discursive and practical consciousness, as well as allowing individuals to
explore the roots of their own emotional responses and the emotionality of
knowledge construction, already exist. But they often lack status and esteem among
parents, students and even teachers themselves. They may also be seen by
conservative forces in communities as undesirable in that their emphasis on feeling,



sensuousness, imagination and the body will threaten current religious or political
dogma. But in fact it is more likely that they are the very sorts of curriculum
activities which acknowledge and facilitate the expressive aspects of not only
individual bodies but, fundamentally, of bodies in relation. In other words they are
those areas which deal directly with the formative life of body-subjects. I have
remarked in earlier chapters that, in the field of educational drama, for example,
through careful experimentation including body movement as well as various forms
of communication and reflection, an individual might not merely absorb the
characteristics of a fictional character whom she is to portray, but can, through
interaction with others in the telling of a story, generate and expand the
intercorporeal. The body is central to such portrayal, for creative emotion must be
tapped in order to move that which is initially external into an inner realm. By
means of this movement the individual renders the desires and emotions of others as
part of her self. Recent innovation in the teaching of history, geography, forms of
civics and social education, are ideally placed to expand understanding of the
relational and the role of the emotions in intersubjective encounter and social and
political life. But there are possibilities in all subject areas of the curriculum
depending upon the methods of teaching employed and the philosophy of teachers
and the wider school environment.
Earlier in this book, I noted that cooperation in the production of various projects
can provide students with the possibility of exploring the distinctions between
discursive and practical consciousness: it can, for example, allow for the extended
exploration of significant experiences and behaviours associated with places, spaces
and environments that have been the source of conflict as well as of a sense of
attachment and belonging. Student could trace the patterning of interactions
characteristic of human behavioural and experiential relationships, comparing and
contrasting these in different parts of the world. In so doing they could examine
issues of spatial meanings and spatial behaviour, the insistence on boundaries and
the impulse to be territorial, its history in human affairs and the significance of this
impulse today. They could study the connection between place preferences and
collective identities, or focus on attitudes towards environment conceived as
natural and social. They could explore the inner social-psychological structures that
underlie individual and groups cultural identities. As I have argued, the emphasis
would need to be placed on the actual process of enquiry itself, highlighting the
dynamic involved in discovery and articulation by the group; so the method
underlying all of this would be one of collective engagement, discovery and
creation, for it is only through the experience of embodied sociality that students
will come to be aware of the deepest meanings generated by their common corporeal
Since human action always entails socially situated bodies in a dynamic of trust
as well as anxiety in relation to its environments, then students need to gain some
understanding of this by having their attention drawn to the ways in which bodily
movement and expression function in social interaction. Ideally, as I have argued



in earlier chapters, such work should be an across-the-curriculum initiative.

Understanding the complexities of just how bodies signify, seems to me to be one of
the most important issues that the curriculum can address. It has wide ramifications
for showing how different manifestations of embodiment matter in the larger
scheme of things and how they are incorporated into forms of discourse. In this,
genuine attempts may be made to understand how, as inheritors of particular cultural
norms and values, we have learned to ascribe characterisations to people of
different race, gender, shape, size, ability and so on. There is already a great deal
of useful work done in the realm of media studies which assists students to see what
is involved in the textual and discursive construction of the normal and desirable,
and this can be enriched and extended.
Teachers themselves may be assisted to come to a better understanding of how
meaning is created within the classroom. In communication, the results of conjoint
experience are taken in and articulated. Meanings created in each and every
transaction are transformed into desires and purposes which, in indicating a common
or mutually understood meaning, present new ties, converting a conjoint activity
into a community of interest or endeavour. What is generated is the desire on the
part of individuals to engage in activities that are communicable and shared by all
concerned. Embodied individuals act and by such actions construct worlds of
meaning and intersubjective relations; the productivity of bodies enmeshed in their
cultural milieu is the very embodiment of meaning. What needs to be given greater
emphasis is the recognition of the role of the body as agent within a world of bodies
which continually transform themselves and their world.
As a result of the kind of education some students have received, they may
neither understand nor respect the functioning of emotion. They may complete their
schooling and perhaps their further education believing that emotions are essentially
a private concern, not a legitimate accompaniment to institutional and corporate life.
However there is a point of intersection of emotions as embodied experiences, of
their social dimension and their attachment to feelings which a self has, and which is
expressive of personal identity. And it seems to me that in order to see emotions this
way we need to more fully articulate the reflexive, relational nature of embodied
emotional experience in all aspects of life, especially that of the social, as well as in
all the processes of knowledge construction. If as educators we can assist students to
see that the mutual sensuous recognition that can occur in social interaction is
something to be prized, not relegated to the margins of our lives, then we will have
achieved much that is valuable. Experienced teachers are aware that, especially in
younger children, what they are learning elicits a visceral response. Knowledge is
not simply that which must be understood; it is always felt and responded to
somatically that is, in its corporeal materiality. Yet in the later years of education
this insight tends to be lost despite the fact that for many students the knowledge
they are attempting to acquire remains more real for them as felt knowledge and as
lived engagement rather than as codified, abstract, received knowledge.



The notion of sociality as involving shared feelings and passions and keeping
warm together, is a good basis upon which to begin to articulate a more satisfactory
account of knowledge and the role of the emotions in social life generally, I think,
and especially in education. More broadly, the notion of intercorporeality derived
from Merleau-Pontys work has potential for helping us better understand human
interaction and cooperation. Deweys insights into the nature and role of habituated
behaviours in cementing social ties and reinforcing a sense of community is most
important, as is his profound understanding of the ways in which emotions deepen
over time to become dispositions that are expressive of attitudes regarding sociality,
solidarity with others and a morality of inclusion.24 The work of both philosophers
can encourage us in our attempts at somatising education, at renewing our
appreciation of experience in all its dimensions, and of grasping life in all its
material sociality.





While I identify culture as a specifically human product I am not at all sure that I want to deny other
species the capacity for culture. Having shared my home with animals for several decades and
encountered many others in various parts of the world, I am profoundly aware that as human beings
we have much to learn about the mode of being of other species. For the present, however, I will stay
with the widely accepted view that culture is the preserve of humans. This claim however in no way
excuses mistreatment of animals. On the contrary, as Terry Eagleton reminds us, we owe non-human
animals that respect which they cannot demand for themselves.
Stocker, M. (with Elizabeth Hegeman), Valuing Emotions: Cambridge Studies in Philosophy,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Introduction, p. 1.
I am not suggesting here that feminist theorists are the only source of renewed interest in the role of
the emotions in the life of the individual. Nonetheless because of the historical association of women
with emotion and presumed deficiency of reason, feminist critiques have been influential in focusing
attention on the role of feeling and affect in human life.
See for example Finemans (ed.), 1993, Emotion in Organizations, London: Sage Publications, and
the earlier work of Arlie Russell Hochschild, 1975, including The Sociology of Feelings and
Emotion: selected Possibilities, pp 280-307, in Another Voice: Feminist Perspectives: Social Life
and Social Science , Ed. Marcia Millman and Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Garden City, New York:
Anchor Books, 1975. Daniel Golemans Emotional Intelligence, New York: Bantam Books, 1995,
has played a defining role reassessing the nature of human rationality and the role of feeling within
the individual.
Negri, A., Time for Revolution, New York & London: Continuum, 2003, p. 243.
The term emotional community is borrowed from Weber. Maffesoli focuses on emotion as it is to
be found in the being together of everyday life. Influenced by Bergsons vitalism, his writing on the
life-affirming character of social groups recalls Nietzsches invocation of the Dionysian in social life.
See Maffesoli, M., 1996, The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society,
London: Sage Publications, p. 15.
This view is outlined in Barbalet, J.M., Emotion, Social Theory, and Social Structure, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2001, Chapter 2 Emotion and Rationality, pp 29-61.








Barbalet, op. cit., p. 34.

See Barbalet, op. cit., for a comprehensive and critical analysis of major sociological work on
emotion and the way in which embodiment is downplayed. In contrast Maffesoli as a contemporary
social analyst foregrounds embodiment.
Lyon, M.L. and Barbalet, J.M., Ch. 2. Societys Body: Emotion and the Somatisation of Social
Theory, Thomas J. Csordas (ed). Embodiment and Experience: The Existential Ground of Culture
and Self. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp 48-66.
See Mead, G.H., 1934, Mind, Self and Society From the Standpoint of a Social Behaviourist,
edited and with an introduction by Charles W. Morris, Chicago: Chicago University Press, and Mead,
G.H., 1938, The Philosophy of the Act, edited and with an Introduction by C.W. Morris, Chicago:
Chicago University Press.
Dewey, J., 1938, Experience and Education, New York: Macmillan, p. 28.
Cataldi, S.L., 1993, Emotion Depth and Flesh: A Study of Sensitive Space, Albany: State University
of New York Press, p. 3.
Irigaray, L., The Way of Love, London & New York: Continuum, p. 57.
My source for this account of the history of empathy is Karl F. Morrisons The Hermeneutics of
Empathy in Western Literature, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1988.
Morrison, op. cit., pp 3-32.
For the discussion of Heidegger, Gadamer and Canetti see Gemma Corradi Fiumaras The Other Side
of Language: A Philosophy of Listening, London: Routledge, 1990, Chapter 3, A Philosophy of
Listening Within a Tradition of Questioning, pp 28-51. See also Canetti, E., The Human Province
(translated by J.Neugroschel), London: Pan Books, 1986.
Ibid, p. 50.
Marxs notion of species being is to be encountered across several works. Here I have used The
Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd edition, ed. Robert C. Tucker, New York: WW Norton and Co, 1978.
Eagleton, T., After Theory, New York: Basic Books, 2003, Chapter 6, Morality, pp 140 -173.
The concept of intercorporeality is explored most illuminatingly by Nick Crossley in MerleauPonty, The Elusive Body and Carnal Sociology in Body and Society. Volume 1, Number 1, March
1995, pp 43-63.
For the most comprehensive and detailed account of the haptic system see Gibson, James J., The
Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1966.
Lyon and Barbalet, op. cit., p. 61.
For a discussion of Deweys view on the deepening of emotion see The Early Works of John Dewey
1882-1898, vol. 2, 1887: Psychology, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967, pp
246-247. The depth of an emotion is dependent upon its maturity, that is, upon its growth and
enhancement over time. It depends on the balancing of, on the one hand, our distance from others,
and on the other our intimacy with them. Dewey has provided a most compelling account of the way
in which deepened emotion gradually develops into that which is somehow more than feeling or
affect. Just as habit is grounded in the interaction of the body with environment propelled by desire,
so also are the emotions anchored in felt conditions of the body. In Deweys account increasingly
deepened emotion congeals over time into a character formation, which is then expressed
corporeally. Emotions deepen to the point where they become characteristic orientations of the
embodied self under specific circumstances.


In this chapter I undertake a brief exploration of the theme of citizenship. I do this
for several reasons. First, such an undertaking continues the discussion of issues
raised in the previous chapter on emotion and sociality I regard citizenship in an
important sense as the culmination of the coming together of affective life and the
fellow feeling we have for others in our community. Second, it is through notions of
the citizen and participation in civic life that the creatural is to be seen in our
assessment of what we owe to others and they to us. Third, citizenship offers a
unique opportunity for the expression of human solidarity based on a shared
embodiment that is, in Merleau-Pontys terms, of the intercorporeal. Fourth,
citizenship as an issue and the forms of community it encompasses and expresses, is
one that is singularly important to education because as Dewey believed, it taps
directly into those participative forms of daily life that education is peculiarly suited
to rehearsing. Finally, citizenship, which expresses both meaning and value in
significant ways, raises the most profound of moral issues. In this I take what is
essentially an Aristotelian position, accepting that morality and politics are
inseparable. It seems to me that since citizenship properly understood is about the
good life in the classic sense, then it can provide a model for living well, but only if
it is seen as a project to be undertaken with energy and humility.
The following is a necessarily brief exploration of how the creatural is expressed
within differing notions of citizenship and its fate in some contemporary discourses
about citizenship and democratic participation. The neglect of the body and the
failure to locate the wellspring of sociality in feeling are themes re-examined in the
light of some contemporary civics discourse. A phenomenological notion of place,
already articulated in previous chapters, is suggested as an antidote to the present
formalism of much thinking about citizenship. The abstract nature of past and
contemporary notions of citizenship is the object of my critique because I believe
they fail to deal with the specificities of embodiment, thereby neglecting practice
and the realm of the everyday.
The bodies and emotions of citizens
As I suggested in the previous chapter the issue of emotion is essential not only to
the account we give of how human beings as individuals come to know their world,
but also in terms of the ways in which emotion is profoundly implicated in the
generation and maintenance of sociality. The work of Boler in education and
Stocker in philosophy notwithstanding, the philosophical tradition has been wary of




emotion. However, it seems to have fared better in the sociological literature;

civilisation is built on forms of solidarity, whether these are described as elective
affinities as in Weber, or tribes as in the work of Maffesoli. That such forms have
an obvious emotional basis is a given. Weber, as the main explicator of modern
rationality in the social realm, acknowledges the functioning of emotion in social
life, while Simmel demonstrates the affective dimension of social relationships in
small groups.1 Both were concerned with the shared emotion and open communal
relationship that together form solid social arrangements, characterised at different
times by permanence and instability. Webers notion of the shared emotional
community is central to his account of how societies function, acknowledging as it
does that reason has only a small part to play in the formation and expression of
outlook, orientations and the beliefs of groups. Emotion, rather, is the driving force
in the social affairs of human beings.
Durkheims identification of the group as a source of life with its outpouring of
feeling, and the opening up of the hearts of participants to sympathy is especially
illuminating, his analysis of the clustering together of people having a common
understanding demonstrating vividly the fundamental affective dimension of social
life.2 This emotional dimension mirrors the individual body, in that the social body
is depicted as a complex organism in which function and dysfunction in a sense
manage to rub along together. In invoking the notion of organism, Durkheim
recognises in the social body the presence of Eros, passion and a spontaneous
vitalism. The social domain is structured and experienced through all possible
varieties of group encounter and situations across and within the multiplicity of
groups to which a person belongs. These groups are expressive of varied ways of life
both in harmony with and in conflict with each other. The major characteristic of
these groups, however, is the affective one. Affectivity is the key feature of the
relationships that make up everyday life in each society, and this is always
embodied. As such it is embedded in and intertwined with the customs and mores
that go to make up subjectivities. Maffesoli notes that we actually experience affectsoaked features without verbalising them, hence their importance to whatever
happens subsequently in the formation of our attitudes and social values.
So the notion that social life in the form of groups with shared interests and
outlook, is simultaneously underlain and vitalised by emotion is a very important
one. Rationalist conceptions of society may find this disturbing, as it suggests that
fantasy, desire and passion may overrun rational deliberation and choice or
adherence to universal moral rules. A focus on emotions in public life and the
expression of emotion of certain social groups can be seen in a rather disturbing
light, especially at a time of global unrest and violence. Aside from the muchexplored association of group emotion with the ancient Dionysian symbolism,
there is also the suspicion that emphasis on emotion constitutes a form of neoromanticism which, by downplaying rationality, diminishes possibilities for
establishing an open, deliberative public sphere.3 It is feared that the emotion
displayed by protesting groups, for example resentment, anger, frustration are



dangerous manifestations of the irrationality of the mob and can only lead to social
I do not deny that there are deeply troubling and even regressive aspects
of some forms of social group and the emotions they express, for example, those
associated with certain forms of religious fundamentalism, ethnic nationalism, or
those relying on ideas about, blood and belonging, or the idealisation of a common
ancestor. But to deny the existence of emotion in social life because of its
association with oppressive and murderous political regimes of the past and present
because it may lead to future undesirable consequences, is to ignore the functioning
of the emotions in the collective creation of imagined communities. Unsettling as
they may be for some, group emotions are nonetheless the expression of new forms
of social imaginaries. What needs to be grasped is that emotions have objects; that
is, as human beings we develop emotional attachments and it is the processes
involved in such attachment that will be crucial in the growth and deepening of
particular emotions. So just as there will at times be destructive emotions unleashed
in the social group, there are also those involved in what Maffesoli calls keeping
warm together, which involve the generation of certain kinds of fellow feeling
leading to the development of solidarity over time. Rash assertions about the
irrationality of emotion not only fail to do justice to the affective aspects of living,
but in any case can also misrepresent what it is to be rational.
Rationality takes various forms in which it has historically been associated with
mind, and dispassionate and disembodied transcendence in the moral sphere. In the
social realm, under conditions of modernity, instrumental rationality characterises
economic arrangements under capitalism. These coexist with forms of bureaucratic
rationality that govern societal structures and functions. But all forms of rationality
have certain basic features in common, notably their distancing from the personal,
and in terms of the present discussion, the process of abstracting from relationships
of family and kin, emotion, and various forms of affective connection and action.
The exercise of reason as an ideal in the enactment of social and political life,
following Habermas, has come to be called communicative rationality.4 With regard
to citizenship in a democracy, the model of rational deliberation has furnished a
means by which citizens may be said to nurture and exercise capacities of reasoning
and discussion which otherwise may remain undeveloped. The assumption here is
that in the rational community one orients oneself towards the common will, such
that the outcome of exhaustive deliberations will eventually generate broad
principles applying to all.
Rational deliberation of the kind espoused by Gutmann and Thompson, for
example, in their influential work Democracy and Disagreement, draws upon a
Habermasian ethics of discourse that demonstrates persuasively how consensus
may be reached in genuinely communicative contexts within the wider democratic
framework.5 In the democratised forum that is public discourse, the collectivity
supposedly constructs its common meanings and acknowledges its differences,
while in a spirit of cooperation it works towards consensus. For Gutmann and



Thompson this occurs when participants satisfy particular conditions of deliberation,

these being reciprocity, publicity and accountability. The latter two refer largely to
the performance of ones duty as a representative of others who are not
present. However, it is the notion of reciprocity that is most relevant to the present
discussion: it seems to require that the individual bring a very specific kind of
attitude to the deliberative forum. Not surprisingly, this attitude turns out to be a
certain capacity to pursue fair terms of social cooperation for their own sake. What
is required for this is that an individual take up a position of disinterestedness which
will allow for the emergence of a set of mutually agreeable moral premises in a
given debate. This, coupled with a capacity for and access to relevant resources with
which to evaluate evidence, places participants in the best possible position to
contribute to rational deliberative debates.
As I have argued elsewhere there is much that is compelling about this model of
the means by which people may participate in the collective making of their shared
social life.6 It is indeed encouraging to feel that there are situations and
circumstances in which we can exercise our rational deliberative talents to help
shape social institutions and arrangements. But we need to look very carefully at the
contexts in which deliberation will occur for us as citizens and to ask quite directly:
What is the nature of contemporary social forms within which this status as citizen
matters, and in which is citizenship enacted? How do the realities of each citizens
embodiment play out in the social and political realm at the present time, and how is
power articulated within particular kinds of arrangements such that specific kinds of
embodiment are variously privileged or not?
The major contemporary social form that holds the citizen is the nation-state.
Although the idea of a global citizenry is an increasingly popular one among those
who enjoy a certain level of income, freedom of movement and access to advanced
forms of technology, it is not yet clear what eventually this might entail for the
worlds populations. In any case, since at the present time only nations issue
passports and people who are stateless can face major problems in merely
sustaining their existence, the nation remains for the present the focal point for
citizens. Therefore within the polity that is the nation and its political realm there
arise central issues about how citizens are attached to their particular nation and
what are the ties that hold them.7 In a period characterised by identity politics,
various groupings within nations have argued for kinds of differentiated relationships to the state, notably that of the recognition of group rights. Such claims seem
to me to express not only dissatisfaction with previous arrangements within their
respective societies, but also an awareness, no matter how dim, that the problem has
its origin at some deep level in the complexities of embodiment. However, when the
issue is seen in this light it is obvious that it is not only groups that can feel
unacknowledged in their embodiment but that individuals may well experience the
same in the face of a kind of citizenship that is formal, abstract and remote from
everyday activity. What this suggests, therefore, is that conceptions of citizenship
need to be critically examined in terms of the actual material conditions in which



they currently operate; we need to critically examine what ideas have been inherited
about citizenship in order to see how it is lived at the present time.

Disembodied citizens
The distinguishing feature of the most influential account of citizenship available
portrays it as an expression of the universality of human life. This view of
citizenship regards it as an expression of the general will, arising from that tradition
of political thought which pertains to the universal. Thus citizenship itself is in a
sense, an expression of the universality of human life, specifically life lived in the
social and political realm. In the processes of working out the common life,
homogeneity of opinion is not a given at the outset, since each person will bring his
or her individual perspective to discussions. But private interests are transcended in
the participation and ultimately the individuals submission to the general will. Selfinterestedness must be put aside in the general interest. This view of civic
participation and the role of the citizen originated in classical Greek philosophy,
changing significantly as it was redeveloped under different social conditions
throughout the history of the West. In the civic republican tradition, freedom is
achieved through transcendence of the particular, that is, of the desires and
perspective of the individual. In the later liberal individualism of Hobbes and Locke,
it appears as a general perspective (again transcending the particular) that allows for
the development of various forms of control over the pursuit of unbridled selfinterest.8
But irrespective of whether we have in mind civic republicanism or the model of
liberal individualism, embodiment has acted as a barrier to inclusion (no slaves,
females or landless men), imposing on societies a set of arrangements that, over
time, solidified into formulae for the regulation of all, a triumph not only of the
universal over the particular but of abstract formulae over the embodied multitudes.
What occurs in both models is a removal of the idealised citizen from connection
with actual embodied individuals and the practices of everyday life, from those
activities which relate him or her to production or reproduction, from the practices
and bodily activity that we can recognise as accustomed action and habit, and
therefore from everything that is material. Historically women and slaves were
excluded from citizenship precisely because they were bound up with the material,
practical aspects of life in ways which purportedly made them naturally dependent,
and prey to the non-rational aspects of human existence. Of course their labour was
also appropriated into the bargain. Later arguments for the exclusion of women from
the public realm of citizenship focused upon their role as caretaker of affectivity,
desire and the body. Today, while the exclusion of women has been remedied in
most countries claiming to be democratic, the association of embodiment, and
emotion in particular, with that deemed irrational and therefore either irrelevant or
dangerous to the civic domain, continues.



I have argued throughout this work that in the Western intellectual tradition the
transcendence of embodied particularity has had wide ramifications, many of which
are negative for living a full human life. With the philosophers of the body and
others whose work I have drawn on, I understand the body as the centre of the
experiential world. Here I note the effects of the downgrading of the body on social
life and by implication how people may enact their citizenship. So in the accounts of
citizenship I have just outlined there remains an attraction towards the distant, the
abstract, the normative and anything that can be distilled into a general rule. This
can be most clearly discerned in the notion of the general will and that of the
common good. Moreover there is the inclination to seek the unitary or ideal (as in
the idea that there is one version of what it is to be a citizen). The conflation of
citizenship with crude versions of patriotism is one of the most disturbing examples
at the present time. Finally there is the attachment to a fantasy, which reduces the
actually existent the embodied self to a notion of citizenship that is purely
formal. Such a depiction of citizenship, it seems to me, removes it from what should
be its concrete anchoring in material bodies and their lived realities, but also in the
process it ignores the issue of how values may be developed that will enable a vital
expression of what it is to be a citizen.
These remarks suggest that in citizenship education there is an urgent need to
better understand what is encompassed through having students develop attitudes,
orientations and dispositions that will enhance their lives as citizens, above all
encouraging their participation in communal life. The difficulty of course lies in
grasping what these might actually be, and then being able to determine how
precisely they might mount a critique of present perspectives on citizenship, and
through this develop an awareness of what citizenship might mean in the future. I
take it as given that knowledge, values and dispositions cannot be separated in the
practice of everyday life, and certainly not in education. Real fleshy bodies, overlain
with images and cultural representations, are what come to be constituted as a
citizenry; for that reason, I think citizenship education must begin with a recognition
of the body in the development of a democratic outlook.
Virtues, values and democratic dispositions
There has been much written about the idea of values in relation to citizenship. The
idea of civic virtues has a long history but has been revitalised as a major theme in
recent times, notably by MacIntyre.9 His emphasis on our animal nature and
consequent dependence and vulnerability provides a needed corrective to those
accounts of values which are grounded in an excessively rationalistic account of the
human being, those which overemphasise individual autonomy and the capacity for
making independent choices about which path of action to follow. MacIntyres
claim that the processes of determining the common good require not only the
virtues of the autonomous practical reasoner but also a fully understood and
accepted sense of dependence on others is for me highly significant. Creatural



existence means that acknowledgement of our fundamentally relational character as

human animals is essential in considering how agency is engaged to make decisions
not just about the private affairs of each of us, but also those affecting the wider
community or the state.
Leaving aside widespread but often simplistic religious views of virtue, the
notion of virtues has always been problematic for education. In recent public
discourse the term values has been preferred, even though it is obvious that most
popular commentators have little conception of how values arise within the
individual, and in particular of the nature and functioning of those values we
commonly call collective. Debates about values, however, continue to rage within
and well beyond educational circles, and contemporary writing explores the notion
of civic values in relation to the conception of democracy. Gutmann and Thompson,
for example, suggest that certain attitudes which go under the broad heading of
moral accommodation need to be generated within the individual.10 These include,
civic integrity being consistent in word and deed and having civic
magnanimity treating opponents as reasonable and morally worthy. Although one
might reasonably assume that emotion is integral to the development of such values,
emotional aspects and processes do not figure prominently in the articulation of such
values. The philosopher Eamonn Callan, however, suggests that emotional
generosity be regarded as an important civic disposition that might help to
overcome the shallowness and instrumentalism that infuses many contemporary
social values. Patricia White argues, and I concur, that the engagement of the
emotions at some depth is essential in all such formulations about the relationship of
values to democratic practice.11
Following Dewey, I take the view that depth of emotion is achieved only through
an individuals growing awareness of her connection to others. People only matter to
each other through experiencing the emotional connection of others who are
entwined with them in various kinds of project who are implaced with them as
they carry out varieties of practice. From this kind of relation, individuals gain and
generate kinds of lived knowledge in contrast to that sort of knowledge which is
excessively abstract and removed from actual practice. Humans realise their
humanity through other humans, that is, through emotionally motivated and infused,
embodied engagement.12 In the process of experiencing emotions, as embodied
selves we are reaffirmed in our spatio-temporal existence. But as Merleau-Ponty and
Dewey have argued convincingly, our emotions are neither in our minds nor merely
in our bodies they are instead always located in the very depths of our actual
engagement with the world in all its specificity. The enhancement of emotional
depth can only occur if we have sufficient privacy to be ourselves, but at the same
time retain an essential connectedness to others, thereby continually engaging in
such practice as will carve out our common life.
Theories of what is involved in being a citizen have tended to be constructed in
such a way as to prevent emotion and affect from being absorbed into what is the
citizenships most intimate concern: the negotiation of everyday social life and the



conjoint working-out of social problems of all kinds. The latter will include issues
related to work, problems faced by environmental degradation, ethical issues such as
the humane treatment of asylum seekers, as well as a host of economic and political
issues. Rationalist-inspired theories of citizenship have not emphasised the
collective and conjunctive aspects of social life in their embodied forms. Direct
democracy in which individuals actively participate in governance has been a
popular notion in recent times but is often regarded as entirely impracticable under
contemporary political conditions. The election of representatives is as far as
participation goes for the majority of citizens, and even this function remains
unfulfilled in those situations in which voting is not compulsory. Hence it is no
doubt very difficult indeed for many citizens (perhaps a majority?) to see exactly
what they can do to activate their citizenship. Often an attitude of resignation, even
powerlessness and thence uncertainty, arises in a population. The suspicion can arise
that even attempting political engagement is pointless, its formality and abstraction a
removal from the realities of peoples embodied everyday lives.
Yet I argue, it is precisely this manifest or given embodiment in all of its
messiness that is the basis for citizenship. Moreover the kinds of embodied sociality
explored in the previous chapter those actions involved in keeping warm together
are actually its foundation, not something merely incidental to it. Social consensus
and cooperation are more likely to be the outcomes of emotional adjustment in the
face of encounters with others than are abstract definitions imposed from above. In
making this claim I am not expounding some notion of tribal romanticism, but rather
trying to suggest a better balance of the embodied emotional with the externally
imposed generalities of rationalistic accounts of citizenship. It is the potentialities of
the embodied human animal in all of its dependence and sociality that must be
mobilised in considerations about the common good and in those practices
subsequently undertaken to achieve it.
This issue of disposition and values in relation to citizenship directs critical
attention to existing versions of citizenship in order to see what the possibilities are
for genuine participation. It seems to me that throughout its existence, discourse
about what citizenship is and how it is to be enacted has battled constantly with the
contradiction between economic processes, which ceaselessly generate inequality,
and political processes demanding equality among members of a population.13 This
was the contradiction in classical civic republicanism and it remains one today
when, after a period of emphasis on rights (especially economic rights), has given
way to a fraying of civic solidarity in the face of neo-liberal economic and social
policies. Contrary to the kind of view one finds espoused in many programs of
citizenship education in schools (especially the officially sanctioned ones), I hold
that the actual conception of citizenship itself needs to be problematised at the
present time. One of the major reasons is that there are significant tensions created
by demands that citizens be in principle equal, while the economic realities mean
that in practice, there is growing gulf between those who have wealth and cultural
capital, and a much larger group which has relatively little or no such resources. The



positioning of embodied individuals under such conditions of differences in power

and influence is complex and can be rendered invisible in current programs of
citizenship or civics education. Hence the need to remind ourselves of the embodied
nature of individuals and the functioning of emotions in the development of
attitudes, values and beliefs about participation.
Developing democratic dispositions in the classroom has been an of repeated
theme in citizenship education recently, especially in light of the criticism that more
traditional forms of civics and citizenship education have overemphasised formal,
abstract knowledge and historical studies. Teachers have been urged to become
more reflective about what they do in civics classes so that they may enable students
to experience what it might be like to engage in participatory democracy.
Participation in institutional life (the school) is seen as analogous to public
participation in the life of society at large. Practising being democratic in school will
have positive outcomes in later life, it is believed. Students are provided with
opportunities to observe the manner in which their own school operates in
incorporating them as individuals into various aspects of corporate life, and they are
encouraged to form and express opinions about the legitimacy and fairness of this
But the success of such activity depends heavily, in my view, on the specific
understandings of citizenship and the civic realm, which while complex and varied,
are rarely made explicit in citizenship programs in schools. Moreover there are basic
themes concerning the rights and obligations of citizens which need to be addressed.
Unfortunately the underlying assumptions of such themes tend not to be brought to
light in the classroom. Thus, for example, while civic republicanism of the classical
kind focused on the responsibilities of the citizen to the polity, contemporary
thinking has been heavily influenced by conceptions of the rights of citizens, often
heavily influenced by identity politics. The difference between the two have
ramifications for the theorisation of citizenship presented to students, hence for the
kind of practical classroom activities in civics and citizenship curricula. An
acknowledgement of human embodiment in its complexities seems to me to be a
basic requirement for a critical study of these and other basic themes. The focus
should therefore be on practical explorations of human ideas, attitudes and actions
which constitute the actual practice of citizenship.
Embodied citizenship rights and obligations
The notion of citizenship articulated by Marshall in his landmark work Class,
Citizenship and Social Development significantly expanded earlier ideas about
the rights of the citizen to include ideas about economic rights.14 But because of the
realities of globalising capitalism at the present time, and in light of the decline in
popularity of notions of state welfare, such economic advantages as unemployment
benefits, disability allowances and the like are no longer seen as rights. The concept
of economic rights is therefore unlikely to constitute any kind of serious challenge to



existing social and economic conditions. In terms of the theme of embodiment, this
reality is therefore unlikely to have a beneficial impact upon those members of
societies who are substantially disadvantaged in terms of economic and social
capital. The kinds of rights presently available may not in fact lead to the enhancement of life for large numbers of people precisely because they remain grounded in
a view that is largely derived from ideas about moral character and behaviour. Such
a view is overwhelmingly concerned with possible threats that may be posed to
individuals by their fellow citizens and not with questions of equality among
The dominant notion of rights is an individualistic one inherited from the
Enlightenment and therefore reflecting the universalistic thinking of that time. It is
couched in the abstract, without acknowledging social difference. More importantly
it does not indeed, by its very nature, cannot challenge existing social and power
relations. In particular the prevailing socioeconomic arrangements set up and
supported by institutional arrangements around the market, cannot allow for any
alternative version of rights. Yet what is excluded is precisely a recognition of those
aspects that have to do with embodied positioning ones access to capital,
economic and cultural, tied to ones embodied being in terms of class, gender, race,
disability and so on. Because of particular aspects of their embodiment, people have
different opportunities and potentialities. Moreover, discursive structures which
situate them as differently embodied will normalise and assign status. As a result of
this kind of discursive assignment within the social order and their actual physical
well-being and so on, peoples cognitive capacities and their very identities will
depend in major ways on the particular social contexts in which they exist. The
conclusion to be drawn from this is that the greatly revered autonomy that sits at the
very heart of contemporary rights theory cannot be realised if the context in
which individuals grow to adulthood inhibits or destroys the very possibility of that
In contrast, the notion of citizenship as community is regarded as answering
some of the difficulties raised by the extreme form of individualism just described.15
With its primary emphasis on the collective it attends not to individual rights so
much as to the ways in which group activities and mutual support can function to the
benefit of all members. The version of citizenship that is implicit here might be
regarded as organic, in that a community is grounded in shared values and a
common appreciation of what is needed if the community is to survive and to
flourish. The parts of the whole are strongly intertwined and roots are deep, so that
individuals are embedded within a network of beliefs and practices that has been
tested over time. Obligation is the centrepiece, that is, the obligation owed by the
individual who enjoys the protection given by membership. Participation and
identity derive from group membership and the performance of mutual obligations,
but what is of primary value is the human association that is entailed as a group
member. It is the contribution to the community, the sense of being held by the
community, that is its own reward.



Individualism and communitarianism are twin poles that suggest ways of being a
citizen. The criticism levelled at liberal individualism is that society is nothing more
than an aggregation of such individuals. The model of the citizen is therefore an
abstraction that ignores the realities of real-life people. Communitarianism on the
other hand has a strong view of society as much more than the sum of its individual
parts. But the difficulty is that it focuses on the collective in ways that exclude both
industrial and economic power. The present connection of the power of industry and
economics to the state and the ramifications of this are largely unacknowledged in
this model. Hence the operation of advanced economies under late capitalism and
the forms of politics that now are prominent mean that their impact cannot be dealt
with adequately by communitarians. Further, the notion of community itself needs
to be carefully examined so that it becomes clear just what a community is synonymous with is it the nation, an ethnic majority (or minority), a religious community,
various forms of cultural configurations within a given state, and so on? The
problems that can arise from the association with ethnicity or religion have been
grimly demonstrated in recent times. Appeals to shared ethnicity or literalist forms
of religious doctrine as central aspects of a culture can be extremely dangerous, as
both history and recent events have demonstrated. The association of ethnic,
religious and cultural communities with place (not implacement, in Caseys sense)
can lead to the development of insular outlooks and the reinforcement of deeply
conservative values with a rejection of the wider world in its complexity.
What appears most striking to me about liberal individualism is its neglect of the
specificities of embodiment. Liberalism has always been notoriously abstract in its
account of the rights of the individual, passing over the realities of different kinds of
bodies and the manner in which they are inscribed differently. It fails to recognise
that people are differently placed, especially in relation to the economic order, and it
also fails to generalise their experience in ways that properly reflect the realities of
privilege and disadvantage. Communitarianism on the other hand has as one of its
major goals the preservation of cultural inheritance for future members of the
community and therefore, by extension, the environment often places in which
that culture has previously survived. In the latter sense, then, it has about it an
awareness of the materiality both of embodied subjects and their material contexts.
But I think we need to view this with caution, for communities may well value their
territory for the manner in which it has been used and its cultural significance, while
not necessarily being aware of how cultural norms and arrangements and the
landscape in general may be part of a larger whole in which all people, as well as
non-human creatures, are attached to the Earth.
The problems I have just outlined in liberal individualism and communitarianism
highlight the present reality, which in my view is that, in the West, the actual
concept of citizenship itself faces a crisis. This crisis arises in large part from the
fact that civic solidarity is in significant ways in a state of decay fellow feeling is
indeed in short supply, under the attacks of market forces on the one hand and the
destructive effects of some of the most aggressive forms of identity politics,



including variants of religious fundamentalism and ethnic nationalism, on the other.

Multiculturalism as a national ideal has been much derided, and a resurgence of a
narrow, in some cases xenophobic, nationalism has put paid to the idea of a genuine
diversity amongs the citizenry of many countries. Because intellectual resources of
the wrong political hue can be so easily ignored by governments, and the political
will is often lacking, the means required to renew a sense of citizenship that is vital
and forward-looking may not be easily marshalled. In Australia, for example, the
model of the citizen emphasises procedures and information. But it also conflates
citizenship with ideas about national identity, drawing heavily for its content upon
warrior and sporting myths, a narrow masculinist definition of what it is to be an
Australian, and an amalgam of stories about military exploits. Rather than opening
out the possibilities for exploring what citizenship might be at a time of crisis in
human affairs, especially those relating to the degradation of environment and the
impoverishment of millions in the so-called less developed world, the dominant
discourses serve only to reinforce its formal and abstract nature on the one hand, and
its beginnings in sentimental myths of origin, on the other. Meantime, actual
embodied citizens in all of their diversity are less and less visible in the arena of
civic life.
The question I pose therefore is this: are there forms of democratic participation
that might acknowledge those aspects of embodiment such as emotion and affective
life in positive and productive ways without becoming either abstract and
formalistic? Are there forms that give due recognition to the embodied character of
human interaction and to the importance of emotional connection within communities?
What forms of citizenship might be suggested?
It seems to me that associational forms of democratic participation may offer
forms of citizenship which attempt to reduce the scale at which social affairs are
organised, trying to bring decision-making down to a manageable size. This kind of
arrangement has an immediate appeal in that it suggests that individual embodiment
and attention to material environments in which people have their implacement have
a better chance of being attended to. Hirst claims that individual freedom and the
welfare of the larger group are best served when as many of the affairs of the
society as a whole are managed by voluntary and democratically self-governing
associations.16 What this seems to suggest is that people can be much more fully
engaged in those organisations in which they work, or in organisations which are
charged with providing the myriad services required under complex social
arrangements. A sense of genuine participation can be enhanced and the needs of
embodied human beings as well as the non-human and the wider physical environment taken into consideration.
An extension of the concept of associational democracy, it seems to me, is the
idea of having much greater direct (therefore, embodied) participation by citizens,
through the institution of election to a cluster of conventions or assemblies. The
relationship of such assemblies to the main elected chambers of government would
need to be carefully articulated and the relative powers held by each fully defined.



The assemblies may be of widely varying kinds, each of which would deal with a
major area of state responsibility, such as education or housing or a set of obviously
related areas such as welfare policy and health. Their purpose would be to overcome
the sense that many citizens of representative democracies have of being unable to
participate to the extent that they would wish, and the feeling that they are frustrated
by the fact that policies of different kinds are simply packaged according to the
dictates of political parties, often without logic or a consideration that, indeed,
embodied citizens are different from one another and thus will have different
interests which need to be represented in the political realm differently.
While I think the model of associational democracy allows the citizen much
greater opportunities for active participation, it may suffer from some of the same
weaknesses as communitarianism, chief among which is the fact that it does not
attend to the economic dimension in ways that would enable it to critically engage
with policies that may disadvantage the most vulnerable members of a society. In
other words it does not adequately acknowledge the links between current
institutional arrangements and the dominant economic paradigm and its
characteristic practices. There may remain a refusal to admit that there will always
be a relationship of struggle with the inequalities brought about by the reigning
political orthodoxy and the demands for equality among citizens. The idea of
specialist assemblies, for example, may on the other hand allow for increased
representation and the canvassing of a wider range of views, the bringing to bear of
expertise and the perspective of those who stand to lose most if wrong decisions are
It seems to me that associational notions of democracy and especially the idea of
specialist assemblies stand a better chance of assisting individuals in social contexts
to become aware not only of their own embodied implacement but also (and perhaps
more importantly in regard to citizenship) to understand what embodied social
participation may be. In other words they will have opportunities for gaining a better
understanding of their own creatural embodiment, while also grasping that it
involves the making of culture (meaning) in company with others who share their
humanity and not only their race or gender. This means they may come to better
comprehend their implacement with others in an environment of human energy and
achievement. Such a sense cannot be conveyed except in the most distant and vague
form when notions of citizenship rely on abstract models of individuality or
communitarian notions of allegiance to a group. I think people may gain greater
insight into how it is that we develop a sense of fellow feeling that is based on
shared knowledge, emotional generosity and genuine empathy. Forms of collective
striving to achieve better social conditions rely, I believe, on this sharing.
But in an age of more individualised practices and the passivity of much social
life it may be difficult to see how collective embodiment can become involved
productively in social and political participation. It seems to me that there needs to
be a re-imagining of forms of communication, with much less emphasis on mere
passive reception of images (being visually sated, entertained or pacified) and



greater attention to forms of communication that will engage us in embodied

interaction with others (playing, discussing, enacting). Communal belonging is
constituted by living, thinking and working together for a cause or causes which
may be loosely or more tightly defined, or at the outset may not necessarily have
a goal or cause at all. Feeling close is the key term, I think, the basis for fellow
feeling, which I want to insist is in no way based on family or ethnic or racial
connection, but on the emotional linking through respect, curiosity, and later,
perhaps, admiration. There may also be a sense of competitive playfulness, with the
anticipation of vigorous exchange. Identity of the group emerges over time and
cannot be imposed beforehand, because it is the very dynamism of the intercorporeal
exchanges that drives the whole thing. What is required is not common origin (birth,
upbringing, ethnicity) but commonality of tendencies, orientations and aims. It is
here that empathy, which I discussed in the previous chapter, comes into play, for
empathy is, I believe, essential for the success of projects of this kind in genuine
associational democracy.
As I noted in my discussion of Bolers work on emotion, empathy is not passive
sympathy, nor is it allowing oneself to be absorbed into others. In the account of
empathy I focused on its dynamic aspect, the fact that in trying to temporarily put
oneself in the place of the other one needs to become aware of ones own
implacement and that of others. At a time when older collective forms of political
struggle have lost much of their impetus, communal practices need to be
conceptulised and tested in an altered political landscape. Forms of communication
that will express the requisite empathy for effective action are coming into being,
but there is a need for greater attention to the practical means by which fellow
feeling in a common cause and the generation of solidarity can be achieved. One of
the first steps is to come to a better understanding of the manner in which members
of groups, through their practice, turn space into place and, in so doing will, among
other outcomes, enact the social order, create meaning, and affirm themselves as
citizens of a particular polity.
Citizenship as partaking of places in common
For the philosophers of place such as Edward Casey, place means humanised space,
not a bounded territory.17 By means of implacement the situation of the mobile and
extensive body space is socialised (but not colonised) because it is the product of
ceaseless human energy. Places are always enculturated, regardless of their apparent
lack of significant features. This does not mean, however, that we have ownership
over them, merely that we have made them meaningful to ourselves by our activity.
Acknowledging that they are so enculturated we understand that they are matters of
experience, just as are those other objects we encounter, and which become for us
good and bad objects.18 We constantly try places out in culturally specific ways
in the company of those with whom we are engaged in all sorts of projects. These
can be as simple as joining fellow retirees on a park bench to admire a water view,



constructing a garden shed in a backyard with a couple of friends or passing

legislation in the Parliament. Thus we partake of places in common with others and
remake them communally. The culture that characterises and shapes a specific place
is a shared culture, not one that is merely superimposed upon the place but is rather
part of its very facticity. But, as I have noted in a previous chapter, place can never
be seen as merely inert matter, precisely because of the animating, definitive role it
plays in our collective lives. Place is already cultural-as-experienced, and as such it
insinuates itself into a collectivity, altering as well as constituting that collectivity.
But places have their meanings first and foremost through the fact that human
beings are embodied.
Partaking of places in common is central to a view of place that is not merely
one of possession and manipulation. The sharing of place in the civic realm
manifests itself in a variety of ways. In a setting familiar to millions of us today
that of the city we live and work, but we may also participate in civic affairs such
as membership of a local neighbourhood watch group or a branch of a political
party. The latter activities may be carried out, for example, in a building which at
other times functions as a primary school but for the purposes of the present activity
it is where we are. What occurs in such a situation is a functional overlapping which
nonetheless carries complex layers of symbolism. As we conduct our meeting to
decide on new measures to protect the local community or vote on decisions to be
sent by the branch to Head Office of the party, we are just as much implaced as the
fifth grade children who occupy the primary school space at another time of the day.
What we are creating and re-creating are reservoirs of significance that are attached
to particular places and contribute to the collective imagination of a locale or
neighbourhood. Such an imaginary is always constituted by the intersection of
ordinary situations, moments, spaces and embodied individuals. Ordinary and
everyday (but nonetheless genuine) sociality is expressed in the various centres of
necessity: a post office, a bus stop, the central business district and local
government offices. Out of these arise the specific aura of a given place, the term
aura evoking a unique colouring and odour. In that place there occurs the making
of culture on an everyday levelling in other words, as the habitual activity of those
individuals who make up the local implaced population.
A distinguishing characteristic of a population is its vitality and the sense in
which it is possessed at any given moment by its place. Out of its activity (practice)
can arise an ongoing collective sensibility, which will have little to do with the
directed and abstract rationality of national citizenship as it presently exists but,
rather, more to do with locally residing and experienced, implaced existence.
Knowledge as embodied and the dimension of feeling will be an indispensible part
of this. Moreover I would argue that it is here, amid the everyday, that experiencing
the other occurs, since it is here that conflict is generated and community forged,
dissolved and re-forged. As each engages in his or her situated practice a kind of
mutual attunement occurs. Other people and their practice link me to my place, just
as I and mine do for them. The history of a place becomes our history by virtue of



our implaced, embodied practice. Irrespective of the content of this practice it can
be work, politics, leisure pursuits, celebrations, arts activities, sexual, educational
activity or whatever it is by its nature participative and therefore generative of
When our bodily dispositions are fully operant, a sense of being at-home is
generated. This does not mean, however, that we must be situated in the space that
people, tribe or clan has occupied historically in order to be implaced. On the
contrary we create and extend our own implacement through the operation of our
bodily endeavours. We attain in that place optimum know-how, where everything is
at hand and utilised to the full in a manner specific to that time as well as place. It is,
in Latours terms, a moving towards the world and making it mobile. Thus it
involves a folding of humans and the non-human through practice towards specific
goals. In this way we come to know what other people are for in a given situation
and how they and we will be used in the furtherance of our common aims. Such
events always present opportunities for a maximum awareness of where and how
everyone and everything pertinent to the event will be placed. In other words, there
will be a certain familiarity, yet the sense of openness and challenge which arises
precisely out of our understanding that there is something to be done, and that we
have the basic know-how and prior experience to carry out the task, whatever it may
be. Essential to this is our feeling of being an agent, amongst other agents, with
intersubjective relations, but also with a keen awareness of the functioning of the
non-human actors who also play a crucial role.
In relation to this notion of phenomenological space and my claim that place has
an absolutely central role in our understanding of how we can rehearse being
citizens, we can identify some examples of communities created, dissolved and recreated which exemplify implacement. We may think, for example, of an annual
tree-planting day in which a population is mobilised in particular ways in specified
areas to attempt regeneration of the landscape, or a visit by a school rock band to a
hospital cancer ward for children. Such things exemplify implacement of
communities which, by their nature, are temporary, but are no less powerful in their
intent and outcomes for being that. Here are instant communities, gathered for the
duration of the event and then dissolved, allowing participants to take up other
practices in other situations. As such, these communities are expressive of the
changing needs, desires and associations of the actors and the demands of the social
and political realms. They afford opportunities for experiencing self-assertion and
the exercise of the will, within limits, as well as affording opportunities for feeling
a sense of the familiar and therefore of communality. What they emphasise is the
sense of locale, or of being at any given moment, shaped by, and simultaneously
shaping, the world through practice.
Such an account of implacement should not be mistaken for some kind of claim
that all human activity is local as opposed to global. It is nothing of the sort.
While citizenship as it is presently defined may appear abstract and remote from the
individual, to emphasise the local as a solution to the problem runs other risks. For



example, the locality may embrace those who are regarded as belonging to it
while excluding the outsider, or at best reminding her continually of her lack
of connection, her failure to have properly settled into the neighbourhood. However,
in the place-specific kind of dwelling I have just outlined phenomenological
implacement it is within communities, regions, locality, having their specific ways
of producing reality through significant variant forms, that each individual
irrespective of background and recency of habitation, becomes implaced, thus in the
fullest sense concretising place itself. Like all social practice, placial practice is
lived. And because place incorporates social actions, the action of subjects both
individual and collective are in a fundamental sense always localised. Therefore,
there can be no one place that is only ever available to a select few who have
appropriated it; rather, all places are available to all people who encounter them as
enduring scenes of experience, reflection and memory. The question for citizenship
then becomes: how can we transform those things we imagine lie at its heart, into
social practices of a positive and innovative kind? Practice is the key to the problems
faced by citizenship at the present time, and since practice always involves bodies,
then embodied individuals in all of their corporeality must be engaged in enacting
their common citizenship.
Bodily (implaced) awareness and citizenship education
If placial belonging underpins any attachment we might have to the nation, what
might this mean for citizenship education? If placial practice is central to who we
are, then presumably the symbolic construction of a nation should involve a renewed
sense of place in the phenomenological sense. Unfortunately it is usually assumed
that so-called localised or regional loyalties do not sit comfortably with national
interests. Citizenship education in many places has often reflected this misunderstanding. Somehow it is imagined that we can be a citizen at a local or regional
level, because it is there that we are implaced that is where our identities arise, are
reinforced and nurtured. But as I have argued throughout this book, the phenomenological notion of implacement is not about this or that space, a city, a region, the
countryside and so on, it is about activity and the manner in which this creates
places, sometimes permanent, but frequently not: the fact that they are not, does not
render them any less meaningful; on the contrary, their intensity can be such that
they have enormous impact on social relations and the institutions of public life.
It seems to me, then, that a citizenship curriculum needs to be constructed from
a rather a different perspective, one that focuses on an understanding of space as
social that is, on the phenomenon of implacement. Attention would need to be paid
to developing a kind of sociology of everyday life from across the curriculum,
including a study of those things which go to make up the emotional bond of
sociality and the meaning of human beings in relation. (Should citizenship
education, draw much more strongly for example, on literature and the visual and
performing arts as well as the social sciences?) Efforts would need to be made to



assist students in understanding the origins of social conformity and the significance
of sentiment as manifested in social movements of disparate kinds. Histories as
experienced every day by ordinary people and the communities in which they are
embedded, and not just the history of the big events (concerning nations and
peoples), would need to become a focus of attention. Human beings as the
inhabitants of places, dwellers and users of every kind, in all their diversity of
approach and practice, would become a major resource in such a curriculum.
Accompanying this would be a reassessment of the functioning of the non-human in
human activity, by which I mean a determined effort to recast scientific activity and
its deployment of technologies (not just information technology) so that students can
come to some understanding of a relational notion of being and knowing. A pressing
aim would be to capture the unity of presently dissociated elements in subject areas
and to refashion these in such a way that new critical discourses of a politics of the
everyday may be generated.
The creation of a unified public realm, which at the present time is presented as
the centrepiece of much civics education, is a concept that ignores the realities of
differences in embodiment. This occurs precisely because citizenship remains
largely an abstraction, which denies the specifics of differing forms of embodiment.
If, however, we acknowledge bodies, we can see immediately that in the creation of
a civic realm, differences cannot ever be eliminated (unless of course we decide to
get rid permanently of a particular social group, say, because of their appearance or
culture), even if they are suppressed for a time. Doctrines in the recent past which
insist that for citizenship to be conferred all individuals must be the same in key
respects, must now be carefully subjected to critique and their assumptions laid bare.
Education for citizenship must surely, therefore, include the development of a
genuine appreciation of the manner in which difference is expressed in all of its
concrete materiality, not merely in theory. Presenting difference in theory is
insufficient: students need to engage with diversity in practice as well as in theory.
In societies whose public is heterogeneous, those differences which are of
consequence are irreducible and must be publicly so acknowledged. Social groups
whose ways of seeing the world involve different foregrounding of key elements can
only transcend their particularity if, at a more basic level of existence, they are
accepted as being fully human. Thus the domain of practical consciousness, which I
described in earlier chapters in this book, needs to be the area of intervention.
Citizenship as embodied community should now be the goal of citizenship

Of Webers work the following dealt specifically with the issue of the emotions in social life: Weber,
Max, Knies and the Problem of Irrationality in Roscher and Knies: The Logical Problems of
Historical Economics, G. Oakes (ed.), New York: Free Press [1905b] 1975, pp 93-207. See also
discussions of Webers treatment of the emotions in Barbalet, op. cit., pp 29-61. Simmels work on









the emotions of members of secret societies dealt with the theme also, in Simmel, G., La Socit
Secrt, Nouvelle Revue de Psychanalyse, Paris: Gallimard, No. 14, 1976.
For an account of the links between Durkheims recognition of the role of affect in social life and
more contemporary notions of elective sociality, see Maffesoli op. cit., pp 87-88.
As I have noted at several points throughout this book, the Apollonian and Dionysian were the two
principles derived from the association with the ancient Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus, the former
being the principle of order, static beauty and boundaries, while the latter is that of excess, frenzy and
connection. The Apollonian has come to represent reason in the Western tradition of thought and to
depict the human being as having the capacity to stand outside of the rest of reality (nature) and to
interrogate it dispassionately. The Dionysian principle presents reality as flux in which human
beings, like all other species, are part of the dynamic of the living whole. The Dionysian experience
of connection, which can occur in social life, appears to threaten the rationalistic order. The analysis
and usages of Apollonian and Dionysian imagery have undergone change and development and,
although Nietzsches deployment of the concepts in The Birth Of Tragedy is perhaps the best
known in the modern period, nevertheless the analysis of Apollo and Dionysus has influenced work
in a great many fields. It is of particular interest to certain strands in sociology.
Communicative rationality is brought into being and sustained through the complex processes of
discourse as described by Habermas in Habermas, J., The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume
I: Reason and the Rationalisation of Society, translated by Thomas McCarthy, Boston: Beacon
Press, 1984, and The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume II, translated by Thomas McCarthy,
Boston: Beacon Press, 1985.
See Gutmann, A. and Thompson, D., Democracy and Disagreement, Harvard: Harvard University
Press, 1996.
For a fuller discussion of deliberation as it is found in the work of Habermas and of Gutmann and
Thompson, and a critique of this in the light of the realities of embodiment, see OLoughlin, M.,
Rational Deliberation, Embodied Communication and the Ideal of Democratic Participation Special
Issue: Citizenship and Education Change, Transformations in Education. A Journal of Theory
Research, Policy and Practice, 3(1), May 2000, The University of Sydney.
The uses of object - relations theory and the phenomenological understanding of place as means of
emotional attachment to country or locale are explored in OLoughlin M., Ch 11, Psychoanalytic
Theory and Sources of National Attachment: The Significance of Place, in History on the Couch:
Essays in History and Psychoanalysis, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2003.
In neither its civic republican form, nor later under liberal individualism, was there any genuine
universalism because of the major exclusions of women, slaves, workers and others from citizenship.
See Alasdair MacIntyres After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 2nd edition, Notre Dame:
University of Notre Dame Press, 1984.
See Gutmann, op. cit., pp 52-53.
See Callan, E., Beyond Sentimental Civic Education, American Journal of Education, 102(2),
February 1994, pp 190-221, and White, P., Education for Citizenship: Obstacles and Opportunities,
in Critical Conversations in Philosophy of Education, Wendy Kohli (ed.), New York: Routledge,
I am reminded here of the African concept of Ubuntu which conveys the idea that human beings
can only be fully so through their interaction and living with others.
The reality about this struggle is rarely acknowledged in citizenship education. This is partly a
function of the compartmentalisation of the curriculum but also occurs because major doctrines of




citizenship do not see the achievement of citizenship as work in progress: something to be

progressively realised and never completed.
Marshall, T., Class, Citizenship and Social Development, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1964.
On communitarianism, see for example Walzer, M., Pluralism in Political Perspective in The
Politics of Ethnicity, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.
Hirst, P., Can Secondary Associations Enhance Good Governance? in J. Cohen and J. Rogers,
Associations and Democracy, London: Verso, 1994.
See Casey, works cited in my Notes to Chapter 3.

Fleshy organic bodies cannot be interpreted away, unless we are prepared to
interpret the entire world out of existence. Each and every body experiences itself
and is experienced in an endless variety of ways by others at a given moment in time
and in its place. This is the meaning of the claim that my body is simultaneously
mine and yet not mine. It is an affirmation of the materiality of bodies as much as it
is a statement about how bodies signify for others and for us. It supports the view
articulated throughout this work that biological reality is the very basis of creatural
existence. This admission however, is neither a defence of a bald corporeal
essentialism nor a repudiation of those achievements known to us as culture. It does
not deny the capacities of embodied human potential to solve formidable problems
and create a better world. The biological dimension of existence reminds us of
animal nature, that which we share with other species and which is our means of
creatural existence. Fears of being seen to invoke a kind of bodily essentialism in
our accounts of social life may have encouraged an over-emphasis on the figurative
at the expense of the biological or anatomical, perhaps doing less than justice to
bodies as spatial and temporal beings in their own right. Downplaying or ignoring
the sheer physicality of the body, is to forget that within bodies there are internal
processes each having its own knowledge or intelligence, enacting its role in a
mutually co-operative way. So while it is entirely legitimate to think of bodies as
being made up of ideas as well as flesh, the tendency to analyse the body predominantly in terms of ideational content can misrepresent both the varieties of
bodily experience and the infinite capacities and talents to be encountered in
embodied human beings.
Given the myriad kinds of practice of bodies in different places at different times
it is obvious that they are never entirely reducible to construction or inscription.
While cultures can and will continue to frame bodies they can never completely
discursively consume them; there will always be crucial aspects of experience that
cannot be encompassed by language and systems of representation. Emotion,
sensations and movements can never be entirely communicated or replicated.
Therefore while the motivations, intent and action of creatural bodies must be
attributed to signification or culture it is nevertheless the fleshy biological body,
with its complex neuro-physiological functioning which is the very source of such
accomplishment. Often the organic body is regarded as being the object of incursion
by representations, reminiscences, and memories, concepts that render it
incapacitated in a variety of ways. The main problem however is that such
depictions resurrect a mind body dualism dominated either by a narrowly
conceived cognitivist versions of reason or by cultural theories which largely ignore
experiencing bodies.
It has been a major assumption underlying this work that reason, far from being
the distinguishing feature of a traditional conception of mind, is shaped in crucial
ways by the specificities of our bodies, that is, by the complex and amazing neural
structures of our brains and by the particulars of our everyday engagement with the
world, that is the peculiarities of our implacement in time and space. Rationality is



precisely that which builds upon and utilises our basic animal natures, not something
transcending the body and demanding its relegation as a lowly vehicle or instrument.
In asserting this I do not suggest that we should now consign all cultural, social
linguistic or political analyses of human endeavour and the like, to the dustbin; they
remain significant in explaining, at least temporarily, the political positionings of
various kinds of bodies and the operation of power upon them. The theorisations
contained within them have been crucial to social movements, notably that of
feminism. But there is a need to attend more closely to the specifics of our everyday
bodily functioning in environments in which the muscular capacities of the body, the
hands (especially through their proprioceptive function), the workings of the
digestive and other systems, respiration, the metabolism and so on, are the corporeal
details out of which thinking, reasoning itself arises. This in Merleau-Pontys terms
is nothing less than the intelligence of the body at work.
If we are to continue thinking in terms of consciousness and reason, as
dependent rational animals, we now need I think, to view it as arising out of the
contesting desires within each of us for care, affection, success, autonomy against
failure, loneliness and vulnerability. Our animality and that of other species as well
as the inanimate as various forms of technology, arises out of this internal
contestation within the individual. Consciousness far from being simply located in
the head as the brain, journeys ceaselessly through the body on moving streams of
hormone and enzyme constantly making sense out of the criss-crossing of sight,
touch, taste, smell and hearing. We still refer to the five or six senses, while
remaining aware that these are not equally regarded, nor equally utilised. The senses
of so-called disabled people will often show a high development of one or more to
replace that of one sense, which is impaired. We know that our animal companions
and other species have even more senses. Large ocean mammals dolphins and
whales, for example, find their way about by means of reading the earths magnetic
fields. Australian Aboriginal trackers, a minuscule but fast-disappearing group have
astounding skills of sight-smell no longer present in the rest of the population.
Water diviners may well be responding to an electromagnetic sense, which is
shared with other species. Of course different species have evolved different senses
and we cannot simply put ourselves into the sensory realm of other species.
Nonetheless we can learn more about some of the senses by paying greater attention
to their functioning in some non-human species.
The vibratory sense, which many non-human animals have in abundance
probably, needs to be better studied in humans. Our muscular sense guides our
relations with objects and with technology - we know immediately when objects are
large or small, solid or malleable. Our sense of gravity is always with us letting us
know what is behind, before and at the side of us, and enables us to dispose our
bodies in certain ways should we over-balance or fall. Phenomenological space is
precisely our postural situating in a specific situation and our orientation. The body
as totality feels the mood of a particular place, but all places one inhabits no matter
how temporarily, are examples of engaged human situation. There is the wonder that



is proprioception, that sensing which allows connection and exploration of a unique

kind. Then there is a kinaesthetic sense making us aware of what position each
aspect of our bodies is in at any given time. Those who leave the earth for sojourns
in space are aware of how their physiology is altered, even if only temporarily.
Obviously we not only can, but also do extend those senses we have evolved by the
uses of technology. This is in Latours terms, the socialisation of the non-human so
that they may bear upon human relations. Our understanding of this as something
that enhances life immeasurably indeed in crucial respects, enables it must also
include an awareness of the risks in using technology, which may not only
contribute to certain aspects of de-skilling of bodies, but also perhaps even more
significantly, to a dulling of our capacity to feel for one another. The issue here is
that of how to utilise technologies to foster greater capacity for human achievement
and greater flexibility for bodies, but at the same time retaining the fullest capacity
for responsiveness to our own and others real needs. An excessive mentalisation
of the human faculties through the use of certain technologies for example, may in
fact serve to undermine aspects of existence such as emotion and the experience of
various kinds of intimacy arising from the operation of the senses.
Nowhere are our senses more profoundly required than in our dealings with
others and the manner in which we assess their needs and obligations to them and
theirs to us. This is the dimension of morality and is directly concerned with the
quality of our behaviour towards each other, to other species, and to the non-animate
realm. Because the body I have been referring to throughout this work is one of flesh
and blood and can only be abstracted from its implacement at some risk of damage,
then the questions of morality arising from such a depiction will highlight the
manner in which such bodies in their animal being merge with issues of meaning
and value. They will emphasise therefore the recognition or its refusal, which is at
the core of the relations between and amongst embodied individuals.
We live at a time in which the capacity for the manipulation of bodies increases
constantly. The promise of a genetic revolution and the manipulation of DNA, the
choices available through technology to choose the sex of the unborn and a range of
medical and scientific interventions mean that unprecedented possibilities for body
modification now exist. Underlying all of this is an assumption that the achievement
of physical perfection is not only coming to be within our grasp, but that such
achievement is some sort of ethical imperative. There are of course competing and
deeply contrasting responses to this from those who see it as opening up
unprecedented possibilities for solving problems of inherited disease and so on, to
those who regard it as an extreme attempt to manipulate nature and gain greater
mastery than ever before. Clearly there are crucial ethical considerations at the
centre of such debates: the body remains therefore the very focus of intense
argumentation over matters of huge import to the future of creatural existence.
But at the very time at which such issues generate strong arguments and counterarguments, there are other urgent issues of morality demanding attention. These
concern most obviously the bodies of those whose lived experience is of violence



and attack on their corporeal integrity. Sadly such events occur on a daily basis.
Because they can have extreme consequences for individuals and social groups they
cry out for attention to the moral dimension of creatural life. They remind us
forcefully of the fragility of ones bodily integrity and that of members of all animal
species. They recall that bodies do and are done to, that they are public and private,
that in contemporary culture in which there is a constant inspection, judging and
naming of bodies, actions involving assaults upon bodily integrity are frequent and
devastating in their effects. While in the scrutiny and naming comes the recognition
of difference. Devaluing follows all too often, and so contempt can grow for those
who are for us other that is, of lesser significance. Bodies can be made to suffer in
different ways, through social rejection as exemplified in the following anecdote by
Australian human rights activist and author Rhonda Galbally (who just happens to
be disabled) :
One evening I set out for dinner with a friend who had cerebral palsy,
and she dribbled. We entered the restaurant and sat down. A waiter then
approached us and asked us to leave. When we refused he moved us to
the rear of the restaurant, out of view. Too embarrassed and humiliated
to argue we ate quickly and left. And my friend didnt venture into a
restaurant for years afterwards.

While in some respects there is now far greater respect shown for the disabled
body, in occularcentric culture the bodies of the homeless, those of suspect ethnic
background ( who are associated with for example terrorist activity) and more
recently the obese are fair game for the intrusive television camera (with faces
disguised) as they go about their daily routines. In particular the bodies of those
deemed beyond any humane consideration due to their status as enemy, have not
only been subjected to extreme forms of violence, but have suffered ultimate
humiliation of having their degradation made public through photographs and video
filming. Negative constructions of the other as dark-skinned, having oriental
features, fat, misshapen or simply old and poor, are amongst other things, a matter of
repudiation of certain kinds of embodiment. Strangely the very means by which we
convince ourselves that others are unworthy of our consideration originates in
representation, that is, in culture itself and not in the creatural, the realm of
animality. Social inscriptions of the unacceptable, bodies imprinted with discourses
about evil, undesirability, ugliness, criminality and so on are the product of cultural
processes. Relegating certain of our fellow creatures to lesser categories is an
achievement of discourse and systems of representation, just as the denigration of
others species had been in times past. Ironically it is effected precisely by means of a
denial of what our senses tell us, which is that they are fellow creatures and for this
reason worthy of our respect, not our hatred.
While as creatures we are all vulnerable, and dependent throughout our lives, for
far too many this vulnerability can be intensified through relegation to lesser social
status based on aspects of embodiment. While the lives of many people seems to
pass in a comfortable blur, which does not disturb entrenched prejudices about other
sorts of bodies, for others their bodies are subject more often to violence than to



loving touch. What can be said of bodies (and which can be said of nothing else in
the world) is that only bodies suffer; only in suffering are we equal as creatures. The
physical body is what we share with all of the members of our species and it is
because of this and this alone that we can have any sense of morality as universal.
And it is precisely because we have the body in common with others that we are
able to feel compassion, at least in principle, for our fellow beings. Of course this
does not mean that our behaviour will always express such compassion on the
contrary, it can also express the deepest cruelty. Nonetheless it is precisely because I
have a body that I am at all capable of understanding what it is like for another to be
embodied and hence I can also understand what it is like to suffer. Human beings
have the body in common and though this may seem little enough it is indeed a great
deal, for morality has its roots in the body.
All moral issues must start from the body, taking the body as the fundamental
point of departure and involving empathy in the sense in which I have articulated it
in this work. This is because mind, which we usually locate as the source of moral
thinking and decision-making is inherently embodied, and that which we have called
reason is shaped by the body. The implications to be drawn from this is that our
thinking about how to treat others will always involve bodies, for the simple reason
that it is bodies which suffer the ill-effects of neglect, mistreatment and violence.
That is why a social science or an ethics must focus upon the embodied suffering of
human and other animals. Such a project will focus upon what as a species we need
in order to live a good enough life. As animals we are potential only and not
entitlements in a highly abstract sense. The needs we have are those of dependent
and vulnerable beings, as MacIntyre reminds us, in other words, the need for love
and care, respect and fellowship. The oft-articulated need of freedom is one which
can be problematic for embodiment, not merely because it is an inherently slippery
concept and therefore open to misinterpretation and abuse, but also because it may
not necessarily fulfil those needs which have been shown to be essential for the
survival of species-co-operation and the solidarity or fellow-feeling required for
successful human practice.
The corporeal grounding of human existence in my view is the starting point for
any genuine change in entrenched institutionalised or governmental practice. This I
believe is why social movements aimed at righting injustices and contesting unfair
or violent policies carried out by governments must involve the mobilisation of
bodies. The action of numbers of bodies provides opportunities for exploring
corporeal practices, which may draw attention to the plight of groups such as
refugees, political prisoners and others. Because of the techniques of surveillance
and management of populations by means of increasingly sophisticated technology,
opportunities can be lost for the exercise of actual embodied collective practice. In
individual embodied practice there is the possibility of a construction of new ways
of thinking about social and political, and therefore moral issues. Bodies it seems
can be quite easily morally anaesthetised today through forms of consumption or
subjection to a range of normalising procedures, both of which can render them



passive. On the other hand they may move towards becoming sites for innovative
and meaningful experiences, which will allow the release for previously not thought
of potentialities. Hence the importance of embodied practice in contestation of
contemporary forms of power.
Perhaps one of the difficulties in having people engage more positively in moral
contestation is that there is a strong conviction that it is minds, which reason
morally, and decisions are made with the head and not the heart. Believing that
bodies are intelligent and have a pivotal role in our moral decision making may
even seem to constitute an affront to our minds So we remain equivocal in our
attitude to our bodies, suspicious of the tendency to release them from their longheld position of instruments. This despite the fact that how and what we know
comes to us through our bodies and indeed our intersubjective relations which we
may have believed arose by means of ideas and sentiments, always involve the
physical encounter of bodies. Emotions are recognized in all of their earthy
consistency nourished by sounds and moods, odours and sights. Since he bodys
quest is for survival not for truth in the sense of propositions about the facts of the
world, such survival extends to the survival of our fellows when, through
imagination and empathy, we put ourselves as far as we possibly can, into their
At the present time while the quest for perfect bodies proceeds apace, other
bodies lie wounded in front of us in the nightly television news. Others, the
emaciated bodies of the aged and children literally waste away before our eyes.
These it seems, are the bodies that do not matter, or perhaps they matter a great deal
less than our own and those of our kin or fellow citizens. At present there is an
inexorable process in train constructing an infinitely extended enemy in the form of
bodies, which may be violated at will in the name of ethno-religious conviction,
political doctrines or in the cause of what we call national security. Such bodies are
no longer deemed to have autonomy and may therefore be subjected to whatever
treatment is deemed appropriate by a warring faction or a vengeful state and its
apparatus. Meantime other bodies in one way or another continue to attract our
attention. The potential for medical science to alter irrevocably what the body might
become within a few generations sits alongside the increasing demand for bodily
makeovers, with an eager now global audience giving witness to each step of
reformation along the way.
In concluding, I return to the notion of the implaced body, which I have
articulated throughout the work. I do so because I think it offers great possibilities
for overcoming the animosities that seem to generate so much destruction of
creatural existence. To examine place is to seek the roots of our human being. It may
also include our non-human companions, many of whom like us, take account of
specific features of a given environment, developing complex forms of purposeful
behaviour. We can of course obscure or ignore this if, like Gadamer and Heidegger
we insist that non-humans so lack anything remotely rational that would enable them
to develop a free and distanced attitude towards their environments. But many non-



human animals dwell in their worlds, which are richly significant to them, which
they interpret and classify and in which they err and correct their errors. Non-human
animals are different in significant respects from humans, but they are able to form
meaningful relationships not only amongst their own species but also with human
beings. Intimacy between species can be a reality. Then there is also the connection
humans have with the inanimate as in Latours sociology of science in which
relations between humans and the inanimate are an integral part of the formers
implacement. To put this another way, enfleshed bodies (humans and other species)
are engaged by specific environments (their places), but so also can the non-animate
and technological, called forth so to speak through practice, to enact their joint
Despite the horrendous results of bad choices and heedlessness of self and
others, it is the body in the final analysis that does not lie. Place while not merely
an individuals body bounded by the skin is nonetheless experienced through our
bodys participation in it. Perception takes up the role of conscience and it is through
the functioning of senses that this occurs. That is why pernicious social, political and
religious doctrines, which hate the body in its multi-sensoriality, can do such
damage. When we engage in practice, mobilising posture, orientation, tactility and
comprehension we commence the processes of implacement. We also re-skill and
empower our bodies and deepen our creatural existence, individually and
collectively. Education it seems to me has an absolutely essential role to play in this,
but it will need to be a kind of education, which re-evaluates the nature of creatural
embodiment. Those areas of the curriculum which positively encourage the
exploration of ideas about creatural existence, through imaginative action, thinking
through the body, utilising where appropriate a pedagogy of discomfort and
practicing empathy have the best chance of helping each and every individual
achieve a balance between awareness of self and others and appreciation of the need
for intimacy and care in human relations.

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Aboriginal, 73, 140, 170

absence (the bodys), 60
abstraction, 29, 51,103
acoustic intimacy, 48
Actor Network Theory, 59, 66
agency, 3, 9, 100
agent, 164
animal, 59, 67, 169
animality, 8, 58, 170
animate, 5, 66
animation, 67
Apollonian, 30, 48, 51
Aristotle, 24
architecture, 63
authentic listening, 32
aural, 48
Bachelard, G., 49, 59
Bal, M., 21, 53
Barbalet, J., 11, 19, 126, 127, 138, 140
Beer, G., 48
Bentley, P., 37
Bergson, H., 30
Bigwood, C., 6, 74, 76, 79, 115
biological determinism, 116
bodies, 1, 2, 6, 13, 5767, 75, 8389, 97,
120, 122, 124, 135, 154155, 159, 165
bodily behaviours, 47, 64
bodily determinism, 59
body, the, 17, 48, 133, 170
body-subject, 13, 82, 137, 138
Boler, M., 6, 10, 110, 126
Bourdieu, P., 123

Brennan, T., 41
Butler, J., 3, 7273
CAD, 115
Canetti, E., 133
Cartesian, 11, 1516, 23
Subject, 15
Dualism, 16
Perspectivalism, 23
rationalism, 11
Casey, E., 5, 6, 34, 45, 59, 63, 85, 87,
128, 162
Casson, M., 111
Catalano, J., 26
Cataldi, L., 14, 130
carnality, 14
cartesianism, 24, 25, 30
Certeau de, M., 7
chiasm, 39
Christianity, 24
chora, 48
citizens, 49, 153
citizenship, 6, 18, 149, 152153, 156157
Cixous, H., 71
Classen, C., 28
collaboration of the senses, 35
communitarian, 159, 161
community, communicative (bodies), 9,
connatural body, 78, 115
Consciousness, 12, 16
discursive, 61, 143144
practical, 61, 143144, 166




consumer, 21, 96
consumer culture, 1
consumer capitalism, 1, 38, 97, 98, 103
consumption, 8, 33, 85, 121
corporeal practices, 49
craft, 52
creatural, 22, 25, 35, 40
creatures, 25
Csordas, T., 4
cultural, 7, 8
culture, 2122, 2530, 33, 35, 39, 43,
50, 52
curriculum, 10, 5052, 5962, 104,
139145, 165166
hidden, 44
cyberspace, 35, 3738

Eagleton, T., 19, 118

ecological subjectivity, 74, 80
ecologically niched, 14, 130
education, 13, 1516, 55, 67, 80, 114, 122
embodied agency, 14
embodied citizenship, 149, 150, 152
embodied minds, 61
embodied sociality, 17, 144, 156
embodiment, 5, 6, 33, 53, 64, 81, 83, 117,
126, 143, 149, 161
empathy, 43, 128, 131134, 136, 138,
161162, 173175
enfleshment, 12
enlightenment, 158
experience, 12, 13
experiential, 22
eye, 6

Da Vinci, L., 29
Darwin, C., 11
Debord, G., 35
associational, 160162
participatory, 157
representative, 161
democratic dispositions, 18, 132, 154,
Dennett, D., 26
depth, 35, 40, 47, 142
depth of emotion, 155
Descartes, R., 2325, 126
desire, 12
developmental theory, 60, 61
Dewey, J., 6, 11, 14, 15, 51, 75, 80,
8485, 98100, 110, 115, 119, 126,
129131, 135, 140, 142, 149, 155
Deweyan pragmatism, 82, 84
digital biology, 36, 37
digital universe, 37
dionysian, 30, 48, 150
disciplined, 1, 8, 17, 73, 102, 140
discourse, 12, 7, 6465, 100, 138
discursive, 18, 95, 115, 117118
discursive configurations, 2
disembodiment, 6, 23, 103
dispositions, 62, 6566, 69, 72, 146, 154
Donkin, R., 122
dualism, 16, 139
dualistic legacy, 139
Durkheim, E., 150

fellow-feeling, 131
female, 9
feminine, 25
feminist, feminism, 117
Fiumara, G., 179
flesh, 13, 36, 81
flesh ontology, 137
folding, 5
Foucault, M., 2, 19, 72, 73
Gadamer, H., 133
gaze, the, 1, 27, 3033, 3941, 4546,
Gee, J., Hull, G., & Lankshear, C., 100,
gesture, 15
Gibson, J.J., 55, 147
Giddens, A., 3
globalised, globalising, 21
global citizenry, 152
Goleman, D., 132
Greek philosophy, 23, 51, 139, 153
Gutman, A. and Thompson, D., 151, 155
Hamilton, C., 123
haptic, haptic system, 136, 138, 147
hegemony of the eye, 22, 33
Heidegger, M., 6, 7, 23, 3032, 45, 48,
110, 112, 133
Hirst, P., 160
historical materialism, 116
human, 58, 127

identity, 100
image, 21, 22, 26, 34
imaginary, 163
imagination, 110
implaced, implacement, 45, 75, 128,
159162, 164165, 171, 174
inanimate, 5
incarnate, 8
indigenous, 3
individualism, 153
inscription, inscriptive, 2, 7073
intelligence of the body, 82, 105, 170
intercorporeality, 132, 135136, 146
internet, 3738
intersubjective, 14, 72, 128, 131
intertwining, of the senses, 49
Irigaray, L., 6, 32, 41, 5355, 79, 131,
Jameson, F., 34
Jay, M., 23, 43, 47, 53
Kant, F., 126
King, Y., 123
kinaesthetic, 171
know-how, 105, 113
knowledge, 104105, 110, 141
Kristeva, J., 48
Knowing, 104105
labour, 9596, 116
labouring bodies, 95, 104
Lakoff, G., and Johnson, M., 11, 26,
82, 84
language, 15
Lasch, S. and Urry, J., 123
Latour, B., 5, 8, 20, 66, 67, 93, 108, 139
le regard, 31
learning, 61, 67
Leder, D., 23, 42, 53, 78, 81, 93
Levin, D.M., 23, 28, 31, 34, 112113
liberal individualism, 153
Lyon, M., 19, 138, 147
MacIntyre, A., 4, 6, 7, 59, 71, 127, 154,
Maffesoli, M., 71, 127, 146, 150
making, 111
Marshall, T., 157
Marx, K., 124, 134
material, materiality, 6, 9, 97, 129, 138

materialism, 118
Mauss, M., 73, 93
Masculine and feiminine, 3, 28, 139
Mead, G.H., 128, 147
meaning, 7477, 83
mental, 12, 83
Merleau-Ponty, M., 4, 6, 11, 13, 14,
26, 30, 3940, 4547, 54, 56, 65,
72, 75, 76, 77, 112, 126, 129, 131,
134135, 155
mind-body, 53, 64
Mitchell, W., 27, 43
Mirzoeff, N., 21, 27, 35
modernism, 31
modernity, 7
morality, 146, 171
Morrison, K., 147
mothering body, 9
Mugerauer, R., 59
multisensoriality, 7, 35, 58, 98
multi-sensorial experience, 45
multi-sensorial education, 50
musicality, 48
nation-state, 152
nationalism, 151
natural, 73
naturalism, 11, 15, 93, 130
nature/culture division, 80, 117
Negri, A., 126, 146
Nietzsche, F., 78, 1112, 16, 23, 2932,
48, 51, 54, 56, 65, 69, 8384, 93, 102,
Noddings, N., 97, 123
non-animate, 40, 67
non-human, 47, 59, 130
Nussbaum, 132
occularcentric, 172
olfactory, 28, 49
OLoughlin, M., 167
Ong, W., 54
ontology, 5
Palasmaa, J., 25, 34, 46, 62
parents, 88
Parker, A., 26, 54
pathologies, 33
pedagogy, 51
perception, 13, 39, 135, 136



personhood, 72
perspective, 54
perspectival, 84
phenomenology, phenomenological, 8182,
85, 149, 164, 167
philosophy, 67, 104
philosophers, 6
philosophies, 51
philosophical tradition, 139, 149
physical, 78
Piaget, 92
place, 7, 17, 44, 85, 87, 149, 159
placial, 45, 165
Plato, 24
platonic, 24, 79
Plumwood, V., 80, 92
pornographic, 43
potential, 6
practice, 95
producing, 97
producing bodies, 8, 115, 118
production, 97, 108
proprioception, 171
psycho-analytic, psycho-analysis, 41
psychological, psychologisation, 70
rationalism, rationalistic, 154, 156
rationality, 92, 150
communicative, 151, 167
reason, 169
rights and obligations, 157
relational, 67, 128
Renaissance, 24
reproducing, 9, 96, 114, 117
Ricoeur, P., 64
rights (and obligations), 172
Rolls, E., 34, 55
Sartre, J.P., 27, 53, 54
schools, 6062
scopic, 22, 31
scopic regime, 22, 102
Seamon, D., 59, 90
senses, 5, 21, 24, 28, 170171
sensory experiences, 46
sensory integration, 46
sensuous, 106, 108
sensuousness, 110
sentient, 7576
sentience, 75
sexual, 57

sight, 33, 136

skills, 104, 110
Sloterdijk, P., 53
Smell, 29
sociality, 10, 17, 125, 138, 142
sociological, 11
social inscription, 70
social practice, 64
solidarity, 20
somatic, 134
Sonntag, S., 4344
sound, 48
space, 17
phenomenological space, 6364
spatial, 17
Stocker, M., 125, 146, 149
subjectivity, subjectivities, 8, 100
submersion (of the body), 60
symbolism, 150
tacit knowing, 108
tactile, tactility, 46
tangible, 137
taste, 28
technology, technological, 66, 101,
103104, 120, 166
technologies, 66
television, 35
Terkel, S., 120, 123
theory, theories, 5152
time, 6263
touch, 24, 28, 46, 47, 136
training, 62
Turner, T., 4
Ubuntu, 167
Umsicht, 31
values, 150
Van Winkel, C., 22, 53
Vasseleu, C., 81
virtual, virtuality, 3536
virtues, 154
vision, 6, 7, 23, 29, 35, 38
visual, 31
visuality, 22, 32, 51
visual literacy, 52
visual culture, 43
visual technologies, 49
visualising, 31

Watson, L, 49
Weber, M., 92, 166
west, 159
western intellectual tradition, 21, 154
western philosophical tradition, 10, 139
White, J., 119
White, P., 167

will to power, 12
work, 5, 92, 95106, 110124
workers, 95, 96, 121
working bodies, 95, 99
workplace, 1, 99104, 118
Young, I.M., 61, 89, 119

Philosophy and Education




C.J.B. Macmillan and J.W. Garrison: A Logical Theory of Teaching. Erotetics and
Intentionality. 1988
ISBN 90-277-2813-5
J. Watt: Individualism and Educational Theory. 1989
ISBN 0-7923-0446-2
W. Brezinka: Philosophy of Educational Knowledge. An Introduction to the Foundations of Science of Education, Philosophy of Education and Practical Pedagogics.
ISBN 0-7923-1522-7
J.H. Chambers: Empiricist Research on Teaching. A Philosophical and Practical
Critique of its Scientific Pretensions. 1992
ISBN 0-7923-1848-X
I. Scheffler: Teachers of My Youth. An American Jewish Experience. 1995
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P. Smeyers and J.D. Marshall (eds.): Philosophy and Education: Accepting Wittgensteins Challenge. 1995
ISBN 0-7923-3715-8
J.D. Marshall: Michel Foucault: Personal Autonomy and Education. 1996
ISBN 0-7923-4016-7
W. van Haaften, M. Korthals and T. Wren (eds.): Philosophy of Development. Reconstructing the Foundations of Human Development and Education. 1997
ISBN 0-7923-4319-0
N. Aloni: Enhancing Humanity. The Philosophical Foundations of Humanistic Education. 2002
ISBN 1-4020-0961-5
D. Bridges: Fiction written under Oath? Essays in Philosophy and Educational
Research. 2003
ISBN 1-4020-1083-4
K.R. Howe: Closing Methodological Divides. Toward Democratic Educational
Research. 2003
ISBN 1-4020-1164-4
J.D. Marshall (ed.): Poststructuralism, Philosophy, Pedagogy. 2004
ISBN 1-4020-1894-0
I. Scheffler (ed.): Gallery of Scholars. A Philosophers Recollections. 2004
ISBN 1-4020-2679-X
C.A. Wringe: Moral Education. Beyond the Teaching of Right and Wrong. 2005
ISBN 1-4020-3708-2
M. OLoughlin: Embodiment and Education. Exploring Creatural Existence. 2006
ISBN 1-4020-4587-5