Aforementioned busy-ness (as opposed to business, but I think I could also use business there, but it might’ve been confusing for y’all) is probably going to prevent me from posting anything in depth and/or funny over the next little while (59 days til Thesis D Day* OHMYGAAH), but as I do the final bits of reading and writing up I want to share some ideas as I come to them.
Today I’m writing about phenomenology. Don’t worry if you don’t get it; I’ve been enrolled in my course since March 2008, and I think I only just really managed to understand phenomenology in September 2012… and even then, I’m probably waaayy off track.
edmund husserl on a paper plate. kind of starts to begin to explain phenomenology, only not at all. i think they purposely made it confusing, like you have to be a member of some elite club. the secret password is the ability to say ‘phenomenology’ without stumbling on your words. //source//
In short though, the idea is that we understand the world – and ourselves – through lived, embodied perception. That is, there’s no point in deploying Cartesian dualisms and suggesting that the mind and body are distinct entities (dualisms that always privilege the mind), and that the body is simply the vessel for the mind. In phenomenology, as in other social thought, the body and the mind are as one.
From an article I’m working from today:
The phenomenological body is inherently reflexive, but it is a reflexivity related to perception, to a corporeal mode of knowing… The flesh of the body becomes part of the flesh of the world, where the flesh of the world refers to the perceptibility that characterizes all worldly reality that is actualized but not created by human perception.**
Now, I know. This is dense stuff. But think of it, if you will, as saying that we do not live in the world; we are part of the world. We do not have bodies; we are bodies. Everything we know, all of our opinions and truths and values, are based upon our experiences as embodied individuals that are simultaneously in and of the physical world. There is no ability to escape the history of the embodied self, and geography at this point is critical, as the spaces we inhabit are the spaces of us. We give meaning to the spaces around us, and this creates places of those spaces.***
I’m so endlessly fascinated by the notion of the body, the mind, and the physical world as inherently intertwined. The idea that I am a part of everything around me, philosophically at least, is so enthralling. It means that everything I do – all of my experiences, all of my interactions, all of my movements through space – are linked together and contribute to the person that is Me. It’s the reason that identity is constantly in flux – new parts of the story are added and the past is reflected upon through the lens of this fresh context. All of our experiences, from the most banal to the most devastating to the most magnificent, happen because we are embodied individuals that occupy space. All of our reality is such because we have found a way to interpret it through our place in the world. Isn’t that grand?
It also speaks volumes of the experience of feeling out of place: when you are feeling hurt, unsure, rejected, or alone, there is this shell shock, this sense of feeling like your body doesn’t fit in the world at that point in time. It’s the reason why the longing that comes with separation from those that you love can physically hurt. Through the body we understand and we feel. We know how our body fits into the world, we know who we are because of the distance between our bodies and those of users, and we forge our identities based upon what our bodies bring: growth, illness, childbirth, racism, blushing, butterflies in the stomach. They’re all somatic experiences of being a person.
The relationship between bodies, identities, and geographies is such a marvellous, complex issue, I believe. It makes me aware of my insignificance in this world, but at the same time endows me with a sense of responsibility that I ought to care for the world as I would care for myself.
google images tells me this is phenomenology, which i suppose is not an inaccurate representation of how my brain feels when i think about this. //source//
*D-Day = draft day, y’all, as in the full draft.
**Kirsten Simonsen (2012). In quest of a new humanism: Embodiment, experiences, and phenomenology as critical geography. Progress in Human Geography 37(1), p.16)
***As I’ve mentioned in another post, I read the different between ‘space’ and ‘place’ as, simply, place being space made meaningful. So an empty room in a house you’ve never visited is a space, but when you enter that space, you bring with it parts of your being: memories, thoughts, physical objects, experiences. That space becomes meaningful; it becomes a place.