Somatic Modes of Attention Author(s): Thomas J. Csordas Source: Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 8, No. 2 (May, ), pp. Published by: Wiley on behalf of. Somatic Modes of Attention Author(s): Thomas J. Csordas Reviewed work(s): Source: Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 8, No. 2 (May, ), pp. Somatic Modes of Attention Thomas J. Csordas DepartmentofAnthropology Case WesternReserve University. Embodimentas a paradigmor methodological.

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Thanksas well to thetwoanonymous reviewersfor CulturalAnthropology. Althoughthe habitusbears some of the schematismof afixed text,it can be transcendedin embodiedexistence. Quitethe contrary,they are an integralpartof the perceiving subject.

It is also the basis for the csordws andambiguity epitomizedby the Kabylecooking ladlethatis sometimesmale, sometimesfemale. We shouldthennotonly be ableto discoverundocumentedsomatic modes of attentionas in the Fijian case, but also be able to recognize them right underour ethnographicnoses in well-documentedsituations.

The workof Bourdieushifted an earlier focus on the body as the source of symbolism or means of expression to an awareness of the body as the locus of social practice. Otherwise,the principleof indeterminacybecomes a disguise for lack of analyticspecificity, somtaic habitusloses its value as an analytic construct.

Somatic Modes of Attention

In all of these, thereis a somatic mode of attentionto the position and movement of others’ bodies. How does the concept of affect contribute to embodiment as a methodological field? How might they approach fieldwork? It’s interesting first of all that the question is posed in terms of language that is not reducible to spoken words, whereas from a stance toward affect as a function of embodiment one would prefer to emphasize spoken words that are not reducible to language as a formal Saussurian system.

Here, Bourdieu’s analysis of universes of practice subsisting alongside universes of discourse provides a corrective, forcing us to csordxs sedimentationfrom languageto the restof the habitus, and to acknowledge Merleau-Ponty’sproblem as endemic to his conception of existence. This intersubjectivityis not an interpenetrationof intentionalities,but an interweavingof familiarpatternsof behavior: One healerreportedthata snappingin his earmeans someone in the assembly is undergoingan earhealing,andthatintensepainin his heartmeansa hearthealing.


The handsof some healers visibly tremble,andI have felt this vibrationas a healerlaid a handon my shoulder. He claims that,”as an acquiredsystem of generativeschemes objectively adjustedto the particularconditionsin which it is constituted,thehabitusengendersall the thoughts,all the perceptions,andall the actions consistentwith those conditions,and no others” Withregardto the first of these distinctions,if we begin with the lived world of perceptualphenomena,our bodies are not objects to us.

Accordingto Daniel, “Atthis moment of perfecticonicity, the physician may be said to have experiencedin some sense the sufferingas well as the humoralimbalanceof the patient” In its postmoder juxtapositionof interpretivepossi- bilities, it poses a challenge of reflexivity for the participantobserver, and in so doing, it arguesthatthe domainof interpretivepossibilities is continuousbetween those of observerand those of observed.

I would endorsethe critiquethatmeaningcannotbe reducedto a sign, This content downloaded from Koss cites use of the verb plasmar to refer to mediums’ molding or forming clients’ pain or emotional distress within their own bodies. What has inspired your work, and in what ways might it contribute to a more thorough understanding of affect? The Flux of Analytical Categories All theexampleswe have called uponto illustratethe notionof somaticmodes of attentionare drawnfrom the domain of healing.

One healerdescribedan emotional complementof the anointingas a feeling of empathy,sympathy,and compassion. Whatit is neverremainsexteral andaccidental to it, sincethisis alwaystakenupandintegrated intoit. Finally, at the same time he would feel a finger pressing softly on the modss his body correspondingto the afflictedpartof the personbeing healed.

Attentionn Merleau-Ponty,authenticacts of expression “forthemselves”constitutea world and are transcendent,but once a linguistic and culturalworld is already constituted,reiterationof those acts is no longer transcendent,no longer projects itself into the world,andpartakesmore of being “initself. Each princi- This content downloaded from Excess of sorrow laughs.


For example, the influentialsynthesis by Scheper-Hughesand Lock clearly lays out the analyticalterrainclaimed by an anthropologyof the body.

For the present discussion, work on countertransferencefrom analyticalpsychology may appear to offer a valid interpretiveframework. Pandolfi, Mariela Boundaries Inside the Body: This methodologicaltensiontraverses all three bodies sketchedby Scheper-Hughesand Lock.

Csordss at this point where Merleau-Pontyleft off, it is valuableto reintro- duce Bourdieu’semphasis on the socially informed body as the ground of collective life.

Within the paradigm of embodiment, in contrast, we are interestedin a phenomenologythatwill lead to conclusions both aboutthe cultural This content downloaded from Recently I’ve felt an obligation to do so, and the first step in this direction is my piece “Embodiment: If, as Schutz says, attentionis a conscious turningtoward an object,this”turningtoward”would seem to implymorebodilyandmultisensory engagementthanwe usually allow for in psychological definitionsof attention.

We shallgive thename”transcendence” to thisactin whichexistencetakes up, to its own account,and transformssuch a situation.

Somatic Modes of Attention | Thomas Csordas –

University of California Press, If, as Merleau-Pontysays, attentionconstitutesobjects out of an indeterminatehori- zon, the experienceof ourown bodies andthose of othersmustlie somewherealong thathorizon. Harwood personal communication adds that plasmaciones are transmittedthroughthe medium of plasma, which in spiritistdoctrineis a spiritualsubstancelinkingpersonsto spirits and to one another.

She respondedthat the experience could not be definitively inter- preted,but thatit could be one of threethings: