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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Relevance of Somatics and Somasophy to the Cultivation of Female Subjectivity
by Beauchamp, Marcia D., Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2012, 327; 3508062
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation considers the challenge of cultivating female subjectivity within cultures built on the centrality of male subjectivity and makes the case for including somatic practice as a key component of that cultivation. The need to cultivate female subjectivity is identified as a central task for our time so that a vibrant culture of intersubjectivity might emerge. Building on the philosophical insights of Luce Irigaray, the evidence is reviewed indicating that Western culture favors male subjectivity as the norm and significantly devalues and denies female experience.

Drawing from theorists of embodiment in a wide array of disciplines, including linguistics, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and somatics, the case is made that Western culture incorporates an anti-body orientation and that embodied experience in human existence is, in fact, fundamental. Connections are demonstrated among the various sources, arriving at a critique that identifies the aspects of the body and of female experience that have been suppressed including the resulting losses to Western culture. Postmodernist accusations of “essentialism” are addressed and shown to be a continuation of the body-denying tendency firmly established in the seminal notions undergirding Western thought.

The body is proposed as the substrate for the development of female subjectivity. Consequently, somatic practices are considered and evaluated as ways to help define, engender, and provide access to aspects of female subjectivity that are unrealized, distorted, or suppressed, in patriarchal Western culture. Surveying recent discoveries in the fields of cognitive science and physiology verifies the sexually dimorphic nature of human beings. New ground is broken by both the theoretical assertion that somatic practice should be acknowledged as a key element in the quest to cultivate female subjectivity and by an experiential case history. In tandem, the theoretical and the experiential approaches demonstrate that the fullness of embodied experience may be recovered through immersion in somatic practice, including Bartenieff Fundamentals, Body-Mind Centering, and improvisational dance. Implications are explored of the findings that somatic practice is a crucial step toward cultivating female subjectivity, realizing a culture of intersubjectivity between women and men, and achieving a full expression of human culture in harmony with Nature.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Spretnak, Charlene
Commitee: Hackney, Peggy, Reinders, Sophia
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Humanities with a concentration in Philosophy and Religion and an emphasis in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Womens studies, Gender studies
Keywords: Embodiment, Feminist reconsideration of mind-body split, Irigaray, Luce, Sexual and gender difference, Somasophy, Somatic awareness, Subjectivity in philosophy
Publication Number: 3508062
ISBN: 978-1-267-33610-1
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