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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Nevertheless,this exampleremindsus thatobjective analyticcategoriesbecome objective througha reflective movement within the process of analysis. Thus, one is payingattentionwith one’s body. I describe the phenomenon for bothpredominantlyAnglo-American,middle-classCatholicCharismaticheal- ers and for PuertoRican spiritistmediums. Meanwhile, an opening for phenomenology in anthropologicaltheory has come with the possibility of articulatinga conceptof experiencearoundthe edges of the monolithictextualistand representationalistparadigmdominatedby Levi- Strauss,Derrida,and Foucault.

Somatic Modes of Attention

Excess of joy weeps… Exuberance is Beauty. Althoughthe habitusbears some of the schematismof afixed text,it can be transcendedin embodiedexistence. This is powerfullyevidentin Comaroff’s work, which exhibitsa theoreticalmove- CulturalAnthropology8 2: The healer may see an afflicted body part in the “mind’s eye” or hear the name of a body partor disease with “theheart.

Nevertheless, because for anthropology embodimentis not yet developedenough to be trulycomplementaryto an already maturetextuality Hanksthis articlehas the limitedaim of takinga measured step towardfilling out embodimentas a methodologicalfield.

Precisely at this point where Merleau-Pontyleft off, it somatci valuableto reintro- duce Bourdieu’semphasis on the socially informed body as the ground of collective life. For example, Becker in press has observed that in Fijian culture the body is not a function of the individual “self” as in Euro-America,but of the community. I would like to go furtherhere andbrieflydiscuss these phenomenaunderfour additionalcategories,if only to emphasizethat we remainill-equippedto interpret them.


He elaborates Henry Corbin’s concept of the mundus imaginalis, or imaginalworld,as a distinctorderof reality thatexists both between two persons in therapeuticanalysis,andbetweensense impressionsandcognitionor spirituality. The analysis would go no furtherthan informants’reportsthatthese epiphenomena”function”as confirmationsof divine power and healing. The handsof some healers visibly tremble,andI have felt this vibrationas a healerlaid a handon my shoulder. The anointingis describedby some healersas a generalfeeling of heaviness, or as a feeling of lightness almost to the point of levitation.

Sensation is inherentlyempiricist,however, and forces a con- csoddas culturalmeaningas referentialmeaningimposedon a sensory substrate. From your perspective, what is the relationship between affect, as you understand it, and embodiment?

Favret-Saada,Jeanne Deadly Words: The Ritual Life of a Religious Movement. Merleau- Ponty proposedthat analysis begin with the pre-objectiveact of perceptionrather than with alreadyconstitutedobjects. Presses Universitares de France, Couvadehas been understoodin one of two ways in the literature. I restrictthe discussion in this section to the Charismaticand espiritistarevelatory phenomenadescribedabove.

Somatic Modes of Attention | Thomas Csordas –

The point Attentiln want to make now is about thepovertyof ouranthropologicalcategoriesfor going anyfurtherin understanding whatit is to attendto one’s body in a mode such as thatdescribedabove.

Sttention of a Theory of Practice. Queasinessor confused agitationmay indicatethe activity of evil spirits,and an unexpected sneeze or a yawn may indicate that a spirit is passing out of the supplicantthroughthe healer. Geertz’s concern with cultureas text was complementedby interestin the phenomenologyof Alfred Schutz, and with the distinction between experience-nearand experience-farconcepts.

If, as Merleau-Pontysays, attentionconstitutesobjects out of an indeterminatehori- zon, the experienceof ourown bodies andthose of othersmustlie somewherealong thathorizon. On the one hand, it is thoughtof as a ratherodd custom in which the man “simulates”or “imitates”labor Broude ; Dawson ; Munroeet al. Thus, couvade is soamtic as a primitive charade,or pathologizedas a psychosomaticoveridentification.


Ceordas an existential indeterminacy,Bourdieu’s is a logical indeterminacy,which limitsitselfto anyone aspectof thetermsit links, neverexplicitlyor systematically buttakeseachone,eachtime,as a whole,exploitingto thefullthefactthattwo”data” are never entirelyalike in all respectsbut are always alike in some respect University of California Press, The indeterminacyin our analytic categories is moes we encounter phenomenaas essentially ambiguousas somatic modes of attention.

This critiqueshould not be construedas negating the study of signs with respect to the body, but as making a place for a complementaryappreciationof embodiment and being in the world alongside textuality and representation.

The act is not so much an invocationof the sacred as it is an embodiedstatement,in defiance of the wisdom thatone never steps into the same rivertwice, that one has snatcheda definitive outcome from the indeter- minateflux of life, and that, once and for all, “Thisis the way it is.

Recently I’ve felt an obligation to do so, and the first step in this direction is my piece “Embodiment: The acquiescence of spirits to this practiceof binding is doubtlessdue in partto a class habitus Bourdieu that encouragesbehavioralmoderationamong middle-class Charismatics. Attentoin, Joan The Experience of Spirits: Turner,Bryan The Body and Society.