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Radical Corporeogeographies: Embodied Practices for Social Transformation

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Organizers: Rebecca Patterson-Markowitz, Sapana Doshi
Chairs: Rebecca Patterson-Markowitz


In this moment we see a proliferation of spiritual and embodied practices in the US and internationally often being packaged and sold to consumers eager, it seems, to alleviate their own stress, malaise, trauma, and suffering. Whether as somatic therapies, yoga, or mindfulness, such embodied practices have garnered criticism from critical theorists (Purser 2019; Kinnamon 2016; Godrej 2016; Stevens 2016) as being at best bandaid solutions that enable practitioners to continue to participate in neoliberal capitalism and other oppressive and exploitative systems. When framed in biomedical, or therapeutic terms, these interventions often locate the individual as the locus of harm and transformation rather than social structures (Furedi 2003; Parr 2008; Bondi 2005). Yet, while spiritual and embodied practices are folded into neoliberal, individualizing, therapeutic frameworks and enduring structures of white supremacy they also historically and in current iterations have been connected to collective radical change (Whitehead et al. 2016; Rowe 2016). In this session we ask: how can practices of the body create transformation beyond the individual self towards social justice goals?

The connections between personal transformation and broader social change pose fundamental questions that feminist geographers have long grappled with, including questions of scale, desire, identity and agency as well as the relationship between embodied knowledge and power. We see diverse spaces both within the discipline and beyond where embodied practices are articulated with social justice. Influenced by Audre Lourde’s famous assertion that “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare", anti-racist feminists haven take self care out of its depoliticized and corporatized domaines into the center of social justice engagement (Pozner 2016; Taylor 2018). In a related vein, Adrienne Marie Brown has recently explored the politics of pleasure (Brown 2018). Meanwhile, Angel Kyodo williams, Rod Owens, and Jasmine Syedullah (willams et al 2016; Syedullah 2019), bell hooks (2018) and Rhonda Magee (2016) have critiqued whiteness in Buddhism and highlighted the deeper roots of Buddhist practice to feminist, anti-racist and other liberatory forms of praxis. Chicanx scholar Gloria Anzaldúa wrote about the praxis of conocimento as a way to bridge tools of political activism and spirituality into spiritual activism (Anzaldúa 2015). From within geography, we note work on radical vulnerability through embodied practices of alliance building and storytelling (Nagar 2019), feminist and anti-racist research on visceral geographies of food (Jones 2019; Hayes-Conroy & Hayes-Conroy 2010; McCutcheon 2015) and whiteness (Joshi et al 2015) as well as work on the ethics of care (Olson 2016) and on feelings of justice (Wright 2010; Brown and Pickerill 2009a).

This session will bring together papers that explore transformative embodied practices aligning with radical politics. We ask what are the actual practices? What kinds of knowledge and understandings of the body are being mobilized? What contexts and ends are they being used towards?

Anzaldua G (2015) Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro:Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality. Duke University Press.

Bondi L (2005) Working the Spaces of Neoliberal Subjectivity: Psychotherapeutic Technologies, Professionalisation and Counselling. Antipode, 37 (3), 104-121.

Brown G and Pickerill J (2009a) Editorial: Activism and emotional sustainability. Emotion, Space and Society 2, 1–3.

Furedi F (2003) Therapy culture: cultivating vulnerability in an uncertain age. Routledge, London.

Godrej F (2016) The Neoliberal Yogi and the Politics of Yoga. Political Theory.

Hayes-Conroy A and Hayes-Conroy J (2008) Taking back taste: feminism, food and visceral politics. Gender, Place & Culture. 15(5): 461-473.

hooks, b (2018) Towards A Worldwide Culture of Love. Lions Roar.

Jones, N (2019) Dying to Eat ? Black Food Geographies of Slow Violence and Resilience. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(5): 1076-1099.

Joshi S, McCutcheon P and Sweet E (2015) Visceral Geographies of Whiteness and Invisible Microaggressions. ACME: An international e-journal for critical geographies. 14(1).

Kinnamon L (2016) Attention Under Repair: asceticism from self-care to care of the self. Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory. 26(2–3): 184–196.

Magee R (2016) If You Plant Corn, You Get Corn: On Mindfulness and Racial Justice in Florida and Beyond. Florida State Bar Journal. 37-39.

McCutcheon P (2015) Food, faith, and the everyday struggle for black urban community. Social & Cultural Geography16(4): 385–406.

Nagar R (2019) Hungry Translations: Relearning the World through Radical Vulnerability. University of Illinois Press.

Olson E (2016) Geography and ethics II: emotions and morality. Progress in Human Geography, 40 (6), 830–838.

Parr H (2008) Mental Health and Social Space. Blackwell, Oxford.

Pozner J (2016) Self Care in the Multiracial Movement for Black Lives. Colorlines.

Purser R (2019) McMindfulness How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality. Repeater.

Rowe J (2016) Micropolitics and Collective Liberation: Mind/Body Practice and Left Social Movements. New Political Science 38(2): 206–225.

Syedullah J (2019) The Unbearable Will to Whiteness. In: Yancy G and McRae E (eds) Buddhism and Whiteness: Critical Reflections. Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 143–159.

Taylor SR (2018) The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Whitehead M, Lilley R, Howell R, et al. (2016) (Re)Inhabiting awareness: geography and mindfulness. Social & Cultural Geography 17(4): 553–573.

williams R angel K, Owens LR and Sydullah J (2016) Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation. North Atlantic Books.

Wright, M W (2010) Geography and gender : Feminism and a feeling of justice. Progress in Human Geography. 34(6): 818–827.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Sapana Doshi*, University of Arizona, Tucson, Liberation from inside out: Embodying abolition through Buddhism-inspired somatic mindfulness 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Chloe Asker*, University of Exeter, (Re)inhabiting the body and the quiet activism of mindfulness 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Lorraine Dowler*, Penn State University, Slow Care and Nonconsenual Nationalism 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Monica Barra*, University of South Carolina, Victoria Grubbs*, New York University, Slave Rebellion Re-enactment: A sense of freedom 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Rebecca Patterson-Markowitz*, University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, Body as Practice: Working for Embodied Transformation Through Politicized Somatics 15 12:00 AM

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