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Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 38:3


The Second Somatic Revolution1

The Second

2008 Farnell
for Somatic
and Journal
Author Charles
Theory Revolution
Ltd R. Varela
of Social
The Executive Management Committee/Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2008


A relatively new addition to the familiar Platonic-Cartesian dualisms at the heart

This paperand/or
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a dynamic
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of Western thought has emerged since the linguistic/discursive turn in philosophy

and the social sciencesthe separation of semiotic from somatic. Semiotic has been
characterized as necessarily representational and/or linguistic, while somatic
refers to a wide range of corporeal processes and practices assumed to be separated
from mind, language and/or conscious thought. In this paper, and in contrast to
Jackson (1983) and Csordas (1990), we propose instead that the semiotic can be
somatic, a conception that requires liberating semiotic from a conflation with the
representational. And conversely, we argue that the somatic or corporeal is necessarily
semiotic when it involves the agentic, meaning-making practices of social persons,
as in domains such as the senses, emotions, and, our focus herebody movement.
To articulate this in a theoretically fruitful way requires a New Realist approach to
the philosophy of science, and the concept of dynamic embodiment.2 These provide
a means to recover human agency as one of a variety of causally empowered natural
kinds in the world. As a result, materially grounded physical human being makes
possible cultural being, enabling a concept of personhood that is simultaneously bio-
psycho-social. We are thereby able to revive Marcel Mausss (1939) tripartite suggestion,
using new conceptual resources. Varela used these New Realist resources in an
earlier argument for dynamic embodiment as a theoretical means to get beyond
the absent moving body in embodied social theory (Varela 1994, Farnell 2000).
In Part One of this paper, we present a general framework for this perspective,
which we are calling a paradigm of dynamic embodiment. In Part Two, we
apply this paradigm ethnographically to illustrate how bringing semiosis and
somatics together requires a robust conception of multi-sensory modalities. At this
stage, it is primarily a sensitizing conception rather than a definitive one.


For some time now, in anthropology, sociology, and psychology, it has been
commonplace to understand that human activity in everyday life is best conceived

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Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
216 Brenda Farnell and Charles R. Varela
as action not behavior (Taylor 1964, Harre and Secord 1972, Ardener 1973,
Crick 1984, Williams 1991, Varela 1996). In anthropology there is a further
understanding that human action is best framed in accordance with the ideas of
practice, discourse, and embodiment (see Ortner 1984, Bourdieu 1972, Hymes
1971, Jackson 1983). By the 1990s the third component, embodiment, was
captured in part by Csordass call for the adoption of a paradigm of embodiment
(Csordas 1990: 547). The special feature of the new paradigm (that we will later
refer to as the Csordas-Jackson paradigm)3 was that human action is centered in,
and constituted by, human physical being. Following Merleau Ponty, physical
being, here, refers explicitly to the subjective (lived body) and not the objective
(mechanical) body. The lived body means the body as human beings themselves
perceive itfelt, experienced, and sensed.4 The thread tying these three perceptual
processes together is the feeling of doing. In sociology, Shilling (1993) and Turner
(1984) embraced this paradigm and its special features, as did Harr (1984,
1986a, 1991, 1998) and Shotter (1993) in psychology. We consider the paradigm
articulated by these anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists to represent the
first somatic revolution. This was an important challenge to disembodied theories of
human action; whether idealist (e.g. classic Levi-Straussian structuralist anthropology),
or reductionist (e.g. the unconscious in Freuds structural model of id, ego and
super ego as a deterministic system of bio-psycho-social forces).
Note that the theoretical emphasis in both anthropological and sociological
versions of a paradigm of embodiment is on the feeling of the doing and not the
doing itself. There is thus an omission of Harrs insight that, If a thing . . . cannot
move about then perhaps it is not a person, (1972: 110) and the realization of
his point in Merleau-Pontys comment that . . . no [human being] perceives
except on condition of being a self of movement (1968: 257). We are therefore
entitled to be skeptical of the extent to which the Csordas-Jackson paradigm
faithfully employs the existential-phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty. While it is
certainly true that Merleau-Pontys key idea of the perceived-body or embodied
consciousness has been a major source of the somatic turn in social scientific
theory, it is important to recall that the central principle which underwrites his
concepts of the lived-body, intercorporeity, and flesh, is the self of movement.

Theoretical Enrichment

What we discuss here is an enrichment of the Csordas-Jackson paradigm in light

of the approach to embodiment taken by Williams and Farnell. They contribute
the idea that human action is best understood as a dynamically embodied discursive
practice, a move that we regard as a second somatic revolution. Ironically perhaps, the
second somatic revolution predated the first, having been initiated by Williamss
dissertation in 1975. Williams discovered Harrs causal powers theory and used
it to ground a semiotic approach to the embodied signifying moving person

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The Second Somatic Revolution 217
known as semasiology (See Williams 1982). Williamss and Farnells approach
draws upon certain aspects of Suzanne K. Langers philosophy of art, as clearly
seen in a brief excerpt from Langers paper The Dynamic Image, about
observing human movement in an American dance studio.

The dance is an appearance. . . . It springs from what dancers do; yet it is something else. In watching a
dance, you do not merely see what is physically before youpeople running aroundwhat you
see is a display of interacting forces, by which the dance seems to be . . . driven. . . . [But] these powers [of the
dancers] . . . that seem to operate in the dance are not [simply] the physical forces of the dancers
muscles . . . [These human powers which] we seem to perceive most directly and convincingly
are created [by dancers] for our perception, and exist only for it (Langer 1956: 5; emphasis provided).

This citation reveals that Langers philosophical intuition led her to connect
human action (movement) with the powers of causation. More than this, she
recognized that such powers did not merely reside in the physical forces of the
dancers muscles, but are the powers of dancers as embodied persons engaged in
making artistic meaning through generating movement patterns.5
Williams and Farnell have constructed their theoretical standpoint by generalizing
Langers reference to the dance to all forms of human movement.

Human beings everywhere engage in complex structured systems of bodily actions that are
socially acquired and laden with cultural significance. Some structured movement systems, such
as the martial arts, sporting activities, idioms of dancing, dramatic arts, ceremonials, and ritual
events, involve highly deliberate choreographed movement. Other uses of body movement
remain out of . . . focal awareness. . . . Examples include ways of eating, dressing, walking, and
sitting as well as modes of physical labor. . . . Also out of focal awareness most of the time are
the hand gestures, postures, facial expressions, and spatial orientations that accompany
speech. . . . (Farnell 1996: 536).

In contrast to the theoretical approach championed by Csordas and Jackson, their

interest is in the moving body, the doing itself, which may, of course, also be felt.
Here we have with greater precision the distinction between the first and second
somatic revolutions: a difference between the feeling of the body (moving or not)
and the movement of the body itself.
The enrichment at issue here stems from the following theoretical principle that
unifies the concepts of action, discourse and embodiment: the primacy of the signifying
moving person. Starting with the premise that all human action is the discursive
practice of persons, we contend that Williams and Farnell are proposing a way of
interconnecting three kinds of body-referenced talk that is found in social theory
and in everyday life: talk about the body, talk of the body, and talk from the body,
i.e. in the medium of movement (see Farnell 1994, Varela 1995).
We use the terms discourse, discursive, conversation, and semiotic,
interchangeably, together signifying some kind of semiosis in sociocultural life for
the living and conduct of meaning. Summarily, we use the words talk and/or
discourse as a means to embrace all of them, but not in the service of a

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218 Brenda Farnell and Charles R. Varela
linguistic model or logocentricity. We appropriate them to gloss a semiosis whose
medium of exchange is multi-modal, and not simply spoken.6
The Csordas-Jackson paradigm presupposes that these forms of social theoretical
discourse are separate and alternative approaches to embodying social scientific
theory. There is even the suggestion, and at times more than that, that the
discourses are incommensurable. More specifically, we can observe that in
traditional disembodied social theory there is talk about the observed body from
an objectivist intellectualist standpoint (e.g. symbolic/structural anthropology,
psychoanalysis, Durkheimian sociology). In the predominant dissenting tradition
of embodied social theory in the first somatic revolution, there is talk of the experienced
body from a subjectivist lived standpoint (e.g., the Jackson-Csordas paradigm).
Finally, in dynamically embodied social theory there is talk from the moving body
(an agentist enactment standpoint). Here we have the basis from which we can
better identify the first somatic revolution in social science theory. The Csordas-
Jackson paradigm was a revolt against the deterministic reduction of the human
body to a mechanical system: behaviourism, psychoanalysis and naturalistic sociology,
were different ways to theorize that reified conception of human somatics.
Williams and Farnell propose instead that we conceptualize the three forms of
body-referenced talk as complementary moments of everyday social symbolic
interaction (see Farnell 1994). Each of the three moments can now be regarded
as situated options that persons may take up in reference to themselves and/or
others as they contextually see fit, according to their ordinary and/or professional
interests. The distinctions are illustrated via the following example:
I hit my thumb with the hammer. [Talk about the (objective) body]
WowI nearly fainted from the pain! [Talk of (the experience of) the body]

[Talk from the (moving) body: a

transcription of a person hitting their
thumb and reacting, including facial

Central here is the idea that the way human agency works is in terms of the signifying
enactments of moving persons. The varied discursive practices of semiosis are performatively

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The Second Somatic Revolution 219
grounded in, and conventionally a structuring of, a suitable region of the mindful
body that serves the purposes of meaning-centered socio-cultural livingsuch
regions as the mouth and lips in speech, the hands in sign languages, and the
whole body in forms of dance, ceremony, or practical skills of various kinds (see
Farnell 1999), in interactive and dialogic contexts as well as past, present or future
temporal frames. The human actions that constitute speech-act systems, action-sign
systems, and any other form of semiosis are the creative outcome of a primary
generative actsignifying enactments from the body (Farnell 1999, Williams 2002).
The main thesis of our paper is that the paradigm proposed by Williams and
Farnell is one way to realize the full significance of Merleau-Pontys theoretical
view of the human character of embodied consciousness. Another fruitful way
to realize Merleau-Pontys theoretical goals can be found in Ingolds dwelling
perspective (Ingold 2000). We contend that it is not enough to focus on the feeling
of the doing, as is the case in the Csordas-Jackson paradigm, because Merleau-
Ponty himself was especially interested in the doing of the body. To illustrate how
this is the case, we briefly examine the concept of flesh found in Merleau-
Pontys posthumous work The Visible and Invisible (1968).

Flesh: Embodiment in a New Key

For Merleau-Ponty, overcoming Cartesian dualism (and its supposed philosophical

heir, the Kantian transcendental ego) was the heart of the matter in the revolt
against the intellectualism that gives us the objective body.7 Merleau-Ponty gave
us, in effect, a post-Cartesian slogan, namely, instead of I think therefore I am,
we have, I can, therefore I am. We have here an incisive Faustian touch: in the
beginning is the embodied act not the disembodied word or mind.8 This disposi-
tional concept of the I can clearly refers to the idea of agency as a power, but
this is not the old-fashioned power of the will. In The Visible and the Invisible in
which the new concept of flesh is introduced, Merleau-Ponty makes a sustained
effort to realize a key change in the philosophy of embodiment. Consider the
following various characterizations of flesh. It is, he declares,

A general manner of being [that is] p. 147

A power that is not a factual power [thus] pp. 1601
A center [that is] p. 145
A node of properties . . . [an] internal arrangement . . . extant by its own efficacy
[and so we have] pp. 1601
A pregnancy . . . a power of fecundity [which is] p. 208
The formative medium of subject and object p. 147

If we are to appreciate what Merleau-Ponty is after here, we must first set aside
the positivist rejection of the concept of causal relations between entities, with its
preference for the concept of the mere regularity of events. We can replace it with

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220 Brenda Farnell and Charles R. Varela
a realist understanding of science in which causation is not merely correlation, but
rather refers to causal entities as powerful particulars. In action in the real
world, causal relations are forceful particulars at work. Causation is, as Merleau-
Ponty would have it, a power of fecundity, or, as it is ordinarily expressed in the
philosophy of science, the power of production. Efficacy is making things happen. And
in nature there are different kinds of efficacious things: physical, chemical, biological,
and, yes, human.
Consider two ideas in The Visible and the Invisible that would seem to underwrite
the theme of the six quotations listed above, that flesh refers to the primordial reality
of causal powers in nature. The first and central idea is seen in the remarkable
comment by Merleau-Ponty that,

In a sense, if we were to make completely explicit the architectonics of the human body, its
ontological framework, and how it sees itself and hears itself, we would see that the structure of its mute
world is such that all the possibilities of language are already given in it (1968: 155; emphasis

The ontological framework is perhaps the very idea of human flesh, that human
bodies are agentic persons. In this regard, note Merleau-Pontys second idea.

But the actual body I call mine, [is] this sentinel standing quietly at the command of my words and acts
(1969: 254; emphasis provided).

We have here the proposal that the embodiment of agentive persons enables them
to use their physical being (or to use themselves)via the acquisition of techniques,
skills, and rulesto move meaningfully throughout the worlds of nature and
culture. Contrary to Merleau-Pontys way of stating it, but in keeping with the
import of what he says, we can phrase this as follows: instead of saying the
subject is his body we could say the subject becomes his/her body. Initially,
the subject is simply the organism, for, indeed, since the body is the indexical
site of the person (Urciuoli 1995, Varela 1995), developmentally, the organism
becomes a body as the individual is becoming a person. Harr has brought all of
these considerations together, particularly the connection of discourse and causal
powers, in this statement,

The conversational world [of embodied persons] like the physical world evolves under the
influence of real powers and forces, dispositional properties of the utterances that are the real
substrate of all interchanges. (Mhlhusler and Harr 1990: 24)

We interpret the term utterances here to refer to multi-modal resources, including,

not only words but also gestures, facial expressions, torso movements and other
physical actions.
It is revealing and intriguing to note that in The Phenomenology of Perception Merleau-
Ponty declared that There is no experience without speech as the purely lived

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The Second Somatic Revolution 221
through has no part in the discursive life of man (1962: 337). Madison, the
eminent Merleau-Pontian scholar, has indeed claimed that Merleau-Ponty
abandoned the primacy of perception for the primacy of language. He sums up
this change by saying, Being that can be perceived is language (Madison
1992: 244). It is therefore not the case that the Cartesian claim that minds
intend can be overcome by the phenomenological counter-claim that it is bodies
which intend (the alleged purely lived through), not ethereal minds. We
would argue that neither minds nor bodies intend, only people do, because as
embodied persons they are causally empowered to engage in social and reflexive
commentary with the primary resources of vocal and kinetic systems of semiosis
provided by their cultural ways of being human.
Merleau-Pontys last work allows us to assert with some confidence that
Williamss principle of the primacy of the signifying moving person is theoretically
consistent with the notion of flesh as that primordial pregnancy, natures
hidden powers of vegetation (1968: 9) as summarized above. Farnell, Williams
and Merleau-Ponty are all emphasizing the embodiment of the doing and not
simply the feeling of that embodied doing. The upshot of this special theoretical
focus is the understanding that human physical being is moving being. It is in this
precise sense that it can be said that the paradigm of dynamic embodiment stands
today as one way to realize the full significance of Merleau-Pontys philosophy of
embodied consciousness.


A second somatic revolution can thus be said to reside in a theory of dynamic

embodimenta theory of Moving Beinga principle of which is that the somatic is
necessarily semiotic. In this section of the paper we will try to link the somatic and
the semiotic via the notion that semiosis is multi-sensory.
The familiar Western taxonomy of the five senses, in which vision is accorded
pride of place as the noblest of the senses, has a venerable history going back
to Plato and Aristotle. As several scholars have noted (e.g. Classen 1993, 1997,
Herzfeld 2001, Ingold 2000, Seremetakis 1994, Stoller 1989) vision is closely
followed by hearing, both of which are deemed superior to the lower, more
animalistic contact senses of touch, taste and smell. As Herzfeld (2001) notes,
this hierarchy was readily mapped onto 19th century evolutionism in both popular
and scholarly thinking in the West as the racist tendencies of an earlier anthropology
associated the lower senses with the lower races. For example, the early 19th
century, pre-Darwinian natural historian and embryologist Lorenz Oken mapped
this sensory hierarchy onto the conventional racist ordering of human groups in
a taxonomy by fives (Gould 1985: 2045) that placed the European eye-man
at the top, followed by the Asiatic ear-man, the indigenous American nose-man,
the Australian tongue man and the African skin-man.

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222 Brenda Farnell and Charles R. Varela
1. The skin-man is the black, African
2. The tongue man is the brown, Australian-Malaysian
3. The nose man is the red, American
4. The ear man is the yellow, Aisiatic-Mongolian
5. The eye-man is the white, European

This was elaborated into a classification of the entire animal kingdom according
to the same principle of the five senses:

Table 1. Okens Path of Progress by Wheels of Five (after Gould 1985: 206)9

All Animals Mammals Mammals Humans

Feeling Invertebrates
Taste Fishes
Smell Reptiles
Hearing Birds
Sight Mammals Feeling rodents
Taste sloths &
Smell bats &
Hearing whales &
Sight carnivores Feeling cats
& primates & dogs
Taste seals
Smell bears
Hearing apes
Sight humans Feeling African
Taste Australasian-Malayan
Smell American
Hearing Asiatic-Mongolian
Sight European


Notably absent from this conventional taxonomy, however, is kinesthesia, our

sensory awareness of the position and movement of the body. We ask the reader
to please close your eyes, lift your armmove it around and ask yourself how you
know where your arm is located? This is kinesthesia; literally movement
(kinetic) + sensitivity (aesthesia). It is this kinesthetic sense that provides
information on the whole repertory of our motor actions, from the raising of an

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The Second Somatic Revolution 223
arm, to walking, even to the turn of the eyeballs and swallowing. Physiologically
speaking, (that is, in the discourse of Western natural sciences) kinesthetic sensations
are registered by receptors in the muscles, tendons and joints of the body. As the
muscles function when we move bodily parts, various patterns of pressures on
these receptors provide essential information for the guiding of motor action.
The perception of spatial movement and orientation of the body as a whole
also involve a fluid filled receptor system located in the vestibules of the inner ear.
More than balance, this structure provides the means by which we are aware of
being tilted, shaken, or whirled about, and how, most of the time, we know
which way is up!
The exclusion of kinesthesia from the Western taxonomy of the sensesthis
(ab)sense, as it wereis particularly interesting because scholars of perception as
diverse as Descartes, Dewey, Gibson and Merleau-Ponty all acknowledge body
movement as the unexamined ground of all sensory perception. One is led to ask
why, then, has kinesthesia been excluded from consideration?

Theories of Perception

If the senses are the means by which we experience the world, then any theory
of the senses assumes a theory of perception by means of which such experience
is possible. The classical two-stage representational theory of perceptionfor
example, that of Descartescontains a foundational but unexamined assumption
that perception is built out of sensations (Harr 1986: 147). In the first stage, a
causal relation is supposed to obtain between a world-state and a sensation. In
the second stage, the sensation is reworked in some cognitive process to yield the
percepta mental awareness. This representational tradition thus institutionalizes
the separation of inside/outside, mind/body, and reason/feeling. Harr concludes
that foundational to four centuries of perception theory is the notion that
percepts are cognitively transformed sensations and the basis of perception is an
awareness of states of the brain that are the remote effects of physical causes
(Harr 1986b: 155).
In contrast, James Gibson (1966, 1979) provides us with an anti-Cartesian
ecological approach to perception. As Ingold has succinctly summarized, Gibson
argues that instead of . . . thinking of perception as the computational activity of
a mind within a body we should think of it as the exploratory activity of the whole
organism within its environmental setting in active participation through practical
bodily engagement. As such it does not yield images or representations. It rather
guides the organism along in the furtherance of its project. The perceptually
astute organism is one whose movements are closely tuned and ever responsive to
environmental perturbations (Ingold 2000: 260).
Such a conception situates bodily action at the heart of our being-in-the-world
rather than merely a means to mental representations of the world.

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224 Brenda Farnell and Charles R. Varela
Merleau-Pontys position accords with Gibsons in many respects, but Merleau-
Ponty takes this one step further back by positing our immersion in a pre-objectively
given life-world that is ontologically prior to perceiving objects in the environment.
As Ingold so aptly puts it, . . . the world of our experience is a world suspended
in movement that is continually coming into being as wethrough our own
movementcontribute to its formation (Ingold 2000: 242).
Despite this common acknowledgement of body movement as the ground for
the very possibility of experience, absent from the table is any discussion of bodily
movement in and of itself as a sensory modality, and therefore as a potential
resource for meaning-making or semiosis. Perhaps, as beings . . . continually on
the move actively exploring the environment in the practical pursuit of [our]
life in the world, (Ingold 2000: 261) our own bodily movement has become an
unexamined common sense; its very familiarity conspiring to hide it from us
analytically. More than this, however, its omission stems from meta-theoretical
problems with a viable concept of embodied personhood as dynamically embodied.
Problems that stem from the Platonic-Cartesian legacy continue to arise in
attempts to embody social theory and practice according to the philosophical
foundations of the first somatic revolution. This is especially salient when addressing
the senses. For example, during a recent discussion of the responses a person might
have to viewing a powerful work of art or a museum exhibit, an anthropological
colleague considered it unproblematic to say that the emotional charge of such
objects operates presemiosis. Objects, she said, cannot be reduced to what
they can be said to signifyto do so is a semiotic reduction. This statement
reflects Michael Jacksons (1983) position in which he rejects semiotic processes
as necessarily representational, (formally) cognitive, and linguistic, in favor of a
phenomenologically inspired radical empiricism wherein sensory experience
and perception are thought to afford a pre- or non-linguistic, pre-cultural mode
of experiencing the world. We are thus left with a residual positivism grounded in
empiricism/experientialism. This formulation does not transcend the problem of
Cartesian body/mind dualism, it merely entrenches the bifurcation, by swinging
the pendulum over to the body (see Farnell 1994, Varela 1994, 1995).
Thomas Csordas (1990) moderates Jacksons position with the important
corrective that Merleau Pontys concept of pre-objective does not mean pre-
cultural or pre-linguistic, but rather pre-reflectivenot thought about. In
Gilbert Ryles (1949) terms this would be knowing how rather than knowing
that. However, Csordas likewise limits the concept of semiotic to representational
signs and symbols, which, he maintains, reduces embodied experience to language,
or discourse, or representation (Csordas 1990: 183). He proposes that we embrace
Merleau-Pontys pre-objective being-in-the world as a dialogical partner to representa-
tion: The equation is that semiotics gives us textuality in order to understand
representation, phenomenology gives us embodiment in order to understand
being-in-the-world (1999: 184). In so doing Csordas seems to accept the dualism
on which the separation of a representational mind from an experiential body is

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The Second Somatic Revolution 225
predicated. Csordass work thus remains rooted in the spirit of the Cartesian
tradition, although that is certainly not his intent.
In a similar vein, Johannes Birringer, in his book Performance on the Edge, (2000)
says of a powerful performance, we find [it] impossible to grasp, except emotionally,
viscerally as it sometimes happens when we witness a powerful performance we
dont understand but for its bodily and affective impact on us. Birringer thereby
restricts what we might mean by understanding to one type onlyto the self-
conscious, theoretical articulations of a propositional kind of which we, as
language-using creatures, are capableagain, Ryles knowing that. We would
want to argue instead that knowing how surely involves knowing how to
respond emotionally. This capitulation to the old logical positivist strictures
around what will count as knowledge or understanding unwittingly perpetuates
mind/body dualism by privileging its second half. We will try to show that these
contributions fail to articulate an adequate concept of embodied personhood
because they presuppose impoverished notions of semiosis and language. At
the heart of the problem, is limiting the concept of sign (and therefore
semiosis) to the representational, that is, as standing for something outside
of itself.
Our proposed solution to the problem of whether sensory modalities operate
prior to, or separate from, semiotic meaning-making is simply to dispense with
the dichotomy and the concept of personhood upon which it is predicated.
Instead of restricting semiosis to representational signs and symbols, we propose
a multi-sensory semiosis loosely defined as processes of agentic embodied meaning-making
afforded by the modalities of taste, hearing, touch, pain, smell, sight, and kinesthesia in various
relationships with talk and other bodily action. The post-Cartesian move is to view such
somato-sensory semiotic modalities as providing human beings with resources for
meaningful action that frequently elide spoken expression, but which are never
separate from the nature, powers and capacities of linguistically capable agents
(Williams 1982, Farnell 1999). In addition to an anti-Cartesian theory of perception
mentioned earlier, this move requires an updated and enriched non-representational
view of language and semiosis, together with a concept of sensory act.

A Wittgensteinian Move

In contemporary linguistic anthropology, the non-representational view of language

articulated by the later Wittgenstein, in addition to discourse centered approaches
to culture (see Farnell and Graham 1996) have developed or considerably modified
concepts of language that gave rise to Peircian and Saussurian semiotics. An
important development in this line of enquiry was to separate what Silverstein
(1976) called the semantico-referential function of speechthe naming function
from a representational theory of language in the sense of inferring accompany-
ing mental representations or images. Current work in semiotically informed

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226 Brenda Farnell and Charles R. Varela
linguistic anthropology recognizes that the representational or semantico-
referential function of vocal signs is only one among many. The same is true of
signs in other modalities such as Williamss action signs (1975, 2003). We can
thereby relieve meaning from being fixed to a semantico-referential function (i.e.
symbols that name or stand for something) and add creative and presupposed
indexical aspects of sign functions into the analytic frame (see Urciuoli 1995,
1996). A contemporary approach to semiosis would also find meaning in contexts
of use and dialogic recontextualization (see Duranti and Goodwin 1996). This
allows the kinds of practical activities of special interest to Bourdieu (1977), for
example, to be included in the realm of the joint construction of social action as
signifying acts of embodied discursive practices.
Let us take ordinary walking as an example. The mundane activity of walking
is not an action sign that stands for anything outside of itselfit does not
normally carry semantico-referential meaning. But that does not make it meaningless.
To argue in a behavioristic manner that Im just walking, it doesnt mean
anything is to decontextualize the act, and reduce action to gross physical
movement (Best 1978). One may be walking across the road to the post office, or
on the way home, or walking for exercise, or for the sheer joy of walking in the
afternoon sunshine (because be-ing mattersit is a human value). All these actions
are semiotic in the sense of being meaningful, intelligent activities (Ingold 1993).
Walking as an action sign thus takes its meaning from the social and physical
context in which the walking occurs, from its place within a system of signs
(as Saussure emphasized). Action signs, like vocal signs also take part in deictic
(space/time) reference, indexicality and performativity. These are, in turn,
embedded within larger performance spaces of all kinds (e.g. living spaces, village
plazas, courtrooms, etc.). They are also related in numerous ways and at several
levels to other action signs.
Ones walking may also carry indexical meaningthe way I am walking may
index my gender, age, class, sexual orientation or ethnicity. Since styles of walking
are shaped socially, as Marcel Mauss observed, others can use the way I walk to
position me socially, as I can use it to position myself. Although walking is normally
outside ones focal awareness it is always available for focal attention if necessary.
In Northern Ireland, for example, careful reading of the walk, posture, eye gaze
and clothing of other persons (a practice called telling) determines whether a
person is identified as Catholic or Protestant and therefore evaluated as someone
worthy of talk (i.e. social interaction), or not. As Bill Kelleher (2003) notes, in
this tension-ridden context, attention to ways of walking and accompanying
bodily practices has become important. When social borders of any kind must be
crossed, it seems that habitual actions take center stage instead of remaining out
of awareness. We maintain that this kind of re-conceptualization of semiosis can
usefully apply to signifiying acts in all kinds of modalities other than speech,
without reducing embodied experience to propositional language or ignoring
pre-reflective aspects of knowing how.

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The Wittgensteinian philosopher of human movement David Best reminds us
how readily we fall into Cartesian traps in our discourse when he says, to describe
an action as thoughtful is not to say that the physical behavior is accompanied or
preceded by an inner mental event: it is to describe the kind of action it is (1992: 201).
Active engagement in any activity is thinking, which is not to say that one cannot
also be reflective and think about the activity when one is not engaged in it.
Likewise, to describe a sensory experience as meaningful is not to say that the
physical sensory response is accompanied by an inner mental event or external
signified that is its significance, it is to describe the kind of sensory experience it is.
Active engagement in sensory experience is meaningful. The signifying here is not
some semantico-referential meaning outside of the sensory act, it is meaningful
because it is understood at some level, and therefore a semiosisa meaning-making
processis at work. Sensory acts make sense without necessarily being thought
abouti.e., engaging in reflective, abstract, critical, propositional, or theoretical
This formulation retains the spirit of Merleau Pontys pre-objective, without
getting tangled in problematic subject/object talk.10 This is not to say that one
cannot also be reflective and think about the meaning of sensory experience either
at the time or later. It is also worth remembering that in the midst of social
interaction, spoken discourse too is most often used without thinking about it.
Gibson and Merleau-Ponty both connect the sensory with action. This is
captured in Merleau-Pontys statement that my gaze, my touch and all my other
senses are together the powers of one and the same body integrated into one and
the same action (1962). He spoke of the bodily synergy of the senses in their
convergent striving towards a common goal. It would be a mistake then, to
separate kinesthesia as a sensory experiential feeling of doing, from bodily
movement as physical action, for how can one act purposefully without experienc-
ing the position of ones body parts and the dynamic feeling of doing that informs
and assigns meaning to the action? Knowing how to engage in action requires
skills that may be out of focal awareness, once learned.
For example, when learning a new phrase of danced movement from an
Egyptian dance I am studying, I might ask the teacher to explain how to perform
a subtle hip action that I have observed and tried to perform but cannot yet
reproduce accurately. This distinct action sign has no name in this dance tradition.
My teacher says, It goes like this, as she repeats the action more slowly and
carefully, adding see, its this [pointing gesture] part of your hip leading yaam
da da, yaam da da, and the syllables create a rhythm that echoes the dynamics
and timing of the action as she performs it again before I try once more. Our
point here is that there are very few spoken language concepts involved here,
but what is going on is not pre-conceptual, pre-linguistic, pre-reflective or
representational Why? Because I have had to focus my attention (my kinesthetic
awareness, not my eyes) on the front side of my hip and learn to carve a shape in
the space surrounding it with that part of the hip. Ive had to draw two horizontal

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228 Brenda Farnell and Charles R. Varela
circles clockwise in space. However confusing the process may sound in words,
this is a person acting, not a mind thinking while the body experiences, and this point
cannot be overstressed (Farnell 1996: 318). Once learned, my performance of the
actions no longer requires my focal awareness.
Several forms of sensory awareness are interwoven in any action. Digging, for
example, requires perception of things in the environmentseeing and touching
the spade one is picking up in order to dig. There is kinesthetic awareness of ones
body and bodily movement in ones conscious action of picking up the spade.
This is most likely to be an out-of-focal awareness of ones acting because attention
will probably be focused on where and how one is going to act with the spade,
i.e. on the soil. An experienced gardener may also pay attention to the smell,
color, texture and even taste of the soil. Also required is a cultural understanding
of the activity of digging and some learned skill. For example, Mauss observed
that during the first World War, English troops did not know how to use French
spades, a fact requiring 8000 spades to be changed whenever the French troops
were relieved, and vice versa! These multi-sensory forms of awareness, typical of
all skilled action, cannot be reduced to the others, whether reducing action to
cognition or cognition to action or experience, and none is foundational for the
others (Woodruff-Smith 1988: 512). The multisensory semiosis at work when
action signs (gestures) and vocal signs (speech) complement each other is well
illustrated by the following ethnographic example of a metaphorically laden

Ethnographic Case 1: Talking from the Body

Benjamin Lee Whorf, the famous American linguistic anthropologist, said of English

. . . we are more apt to make a grasping gesture when we speak of grasping an elusive idea than
when we speak of grasping a door knob ( Whorf 1956: 157).

In identifying spatialized metaphors as an organizing principle in English and

other European languages, Whorf notes the way gestures integrate with such
spoken metaphors. English, he observed, is a language that systematically turns
abstract concepts about intangible matters such as time or ideas into nouns,
which then are handled discursively as if they are tangible. Thus, we frequently
talk about ideas as if they are physical objectsI can hold several ideas at once,
I might pass some of my ideas on to you, and I can twist your ideas around
and so on.11 As Whorf puts it,

Many of the gestures made by English speaking people serve to illustrate, by a movement in
space, not a real spatial reference but one of the nonspatial references that our language handles

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The Second Somatic Revolution 229

Figure 2. An American-English speaking professor gestures as she talks informally to her

students about doing field research.

by metaphors of imaginary space. The gesture seeks to make a metaphorical and somewhat
unclear reference more clear ( Whorf 1956: 157).

We see this principle at work in the first segment transcribed in Figure 2, as an

American-English speaking professor, during an informal interview with two
students, employs vocal signs to speak of conceiving of a project. This is
accompanied by an action sign in which she uses both hands symmetrically to
make a small horizontal circle in the space just in front of her head.12 She repeats
the same action sign in the next sentence when she says, having an idea. The
two intangible nouns a project and an idea have been metaphorically trans-
formed into visible, tangible objects, metaphorically enclosed within the circular
space circumscribed with her hands. Just as Whorf observed, she has used body
movement in corporeal space to create a visual representation of two non-spatial,
non-tangible referentsa project and an ideathat English speakers conceive
of in spatialized terms.
In addition, the movement path of the action signthis tracing of a circular
pathway through space with both handsis iconic of the notion of process involved
in the verbs to conceive and to have an idea. The structure of the action sign
thus simultaneously mirrors an English speakers common sense meta-linguistic

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230 Brenda Farnell and Charles R. Varela

Figure 3. A Euro-American English spatialized metaphor in which vocal signs and action
signs integrate to create the metaphorical vehicle.

notion of basic language structurethat nouns are things and verb are doing
words. The moving hands are iconic of the verbs (to conceive, to have), while
the nouns become the imaginary objects thus circumscribed (a project, an idea).
A similar integration of vocal signs and action signs happens later in the
narrative when the speaker says, fit into . . . your interests (Figure 3). Her left
hand becomes a metaphorical container for the intangible noun (the interests)
while with her right hand she takes up the action of the verb and spatial preposition
fit into by moving her hand back and forth as if stuffing the container with
A later phrase in the narrative illustrates how English speakers structure
concepts of time through spatialized metaphors. We objectify time, another
intangible of the experienced physical world, by using a noun formthe time
to which we assign the properties of length and substance. Hence, we speak of a
long or short time and divide its length into units we call weeks, days,
hours, minutes and seconds. We talk about not having enough time, of spending
and wasting it and so forth. Consistent with this principle, the professor uses
vocal signs to say, . . . it was the first extended time Id spent in Korea. These words
are accompanied by an action sign in which she draws a horizontal line with both

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The Second Somatic Revolution 231
hands across the space in front of her torso. Palms are facing each other as the
hands separate, moving to left and right sides as they create a visual representation
of time as a length.

Semantic and Pragmatic Functions

One is led to ask why the speaker adds visual-kinetic material to the utterances
and what functions these action signs serve when the words alone would seem
adequate to convey the semantic content? Answers to these questions emerge if
one looks at the semantic and pragmatic functions of the utterances. Since what
is defined is only accessible through metaphor, these are not new descriptions of
something previously discerned, they create the meaning. The professor creates the
metaphorical vehicle of these spatialized metaphors within tangible space. This
assists the speakers clarity of conceptualization by making the intangible visible
in the physical, corporeal space in front of her own body. She actively shapes this
dynamically embodied space, acting the verbs and making the objects (nouns).
This is experienced largely through her kinesthetic sense, since we dont usually
watch our own gestural production (Euro-Americans usually look at co-participants,
as the transcript shows). For the co-participants in this speech eventthe students
the action signs provide visual references that likewise lend support to and clarify
the meaning of the spatialized metaphors. As Whorf puts it, The gesture seeks
to make a metaphorical and somewhat unclear reference more clear. ( Whorf
1959: 157) The action signs thus provide visual-kinetic metaphors that complement
the vocal metaphors and vice versa, in a semantic gestalt that functions as a
pragmatic aid to both conceptualization and communication.

The Spatial Location of Gestures and Cultural Concepts of Body/Mind

An additional constituent feature of the action signs in Figure 2 is their spatial

location in relation to the rest of the professors body. She locates her action signs
close to her head, thereby utilizing the English speakers conventional notion of
where in the body thinking is located. It is interesting to note in passing, that
signs for , , , and in American Sign Language
(ASL), used by members of the Deaf community in the United States, are also
located close to the head, corresponding closely to the co-expressive actions signs
employed by American English speakers (see Farnell 1995: 252). That such a
location is a cultural construction can be illustrated through a comparison with
utterances from Nakota (Siouan) speech events in which a Nakota sign talker
utilizes similar metaphorical content about person attributes, but with interesting
contrasts in the corporeal location of action signs relating to thinking and
mind (see Farnell 2001: 409413).

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232 Brenda Farnell and Charles R. Varela
Ethnographic Case 2: Cashinahua Concepts of Person

Finally, a brief summary of Kensingers (1991) ethnographic account of Cashinahua

(Peru/Western Brazil) personhood and knowledge, provides an example of an
alternative taxonomy of the senses and embodied personhood that helps stretch
the Western imagination as to how an agent-centered, sensory semiosis might
operate as dynamically embodied action in a non-Cartesian environment.
Kensinger embarked upon an ethnographic quest into what counted as
knowledge among the Cashinahuasits location, constitution and acquisition.
A wise man, he learned, has knowledge (una) throughout his bodyhis whole
body knows, they say. Una is that which ones body learns from experience.
When asked where specifically a wise man had knowledge, Kensingers consultants
listed his hands, his skin, his eyes, his ears, his genitals, and his liver. When asked,
does his brain have knowledge, they responded, It doesnt.

Hand Knowledge. All knowledge associated with physical labor is located in the
hands because they are the body part most directly involved in work. Kensinger
explains: . . . when a man chops down a tree to clear a garden in the forest, he
learns something about the nature of the tree and of his tool, about the force
needed to make the cuts and the direction in which the tree falls with reference
to the placement of the cut and about whether it falls cleanly to the ground with
reference to the surrounding brush and trees, and more. (Kensinger 1991: 39)
This knowledge resides in the hands, say the Cashinahua, because they held the
axe that cut the tree, causing it to fall and thus are the conduit by which the
knowledge entered the body.
Knowledge learned by and associated with mens hands involves hunting,
fishing, making gardens tools, bows and arrows, feather headdresses and other
objects. Womens hands know planting and harvesting gardens, cooking, weaving,
and making baskets, pottery and other objects.

Skin Knowledge. Besides hand knowledge, successful hunting also involves knowledge
of the behavioral characteristics of the animals hunted, based on observation.
Contrary to our expectations, this is classified by the Cashinahua as skin knowledge,
as is all knowledge of the natural world. One learns about things like sun, wind,
water, and rain through the sensations they produce on the surfaces of the body.
It is in this sense that knowledge of the natural world is skin knowledge.
When Kensinger asked why knowledge of animal behavior was not eye
knowledge, since it came from observation, he was told that it was knowledge of
the jungles body spirit ( yuda bake yushin). This opened up a whole second
classificatory system that constitutes the Cashinahua notion of person, according
to which, every human being consists of a body ( yuda), plus a series of at least five
spirits. Although Kensingers consultants disagreed on exactly how many spirits a
person has, they all listed at least the following:

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Yuda bake yushinbody child spirit
Bedu yushin eye spirit
Nama yushin dream spirit
Pui yushinfaeces spirit
Isun yushinurine spirit

Kensinger discusses only the first two in his account. We learn that the body
child spirit encases a persons body like an outer skin. It is not really visibleit
consists of a persons aura, an indicator of the state of a persons vitality and
health, or lack thereof, and a persons sheer physical presence. Although ephemeral,
intangible and invisible, the body takes on a different aura in the absence of the
body-child-spirit, as when a person dies. Yuda bake yushin also refers to a persons
reflection in water or a mirror, as well as a persons shadow. All living things,
including people, animals, vegetation and all other aspects of nature are said to
have body spirits. When one sees a person or thing one can be said to see its
body spirit.

Eye SpiritEye Knowledge. To see the true nature of people and the things that
make up the natural world, however, one must also understand the bedu yushin
eye spirit, sometimes also called the real spirit ( yushin kuin). The eye spirit dwells
in a persons eye, leaving the body during unconsciousness and hallucinogenic
experiences to travel in the world of spirits. The knowledge gained in these travels
is called bedu unayaeye knowledge. It is only with the eye spirit that one can truly
and fully see persons or objects in both their physical and spiritual substances, i.e.
their bodies and body spirits. Without the eye spirit a person can only know the
surface of things, i.e. their skin and thus skin knowledge.

Ear Knowledge. Social knowledge is gained through and resides in the ears; a
connection which comes from the centrality of language in social discourse,
although speech (hancha) comes from the mouth, knowledge comes from hearing.
There are two kinds of hearing, soft and hard. Soft hearing involves listening and
absorbing facts about social matterssocial awareness. Hard hearing requires
digging beneath the surface to consider motivations, consequences etc. Although
both kinds of hearing involve knowledge, it is principally hard hearing that
is involved when they say a person knows a lot or that they have much ear
knowledge. Hard hearing results from both listening and thinking. Social
misfits and persons who flaunt social conventions are said to be deaf or to
have hard ears or his ears are without holesthey are people without ear
Kensinger was never able to find out where thinking takes place. Several
people said it takes place within the ears; others located it in the heart, the liver
or the whole body. Others found his questions incomprehensible or silly. Although
he pressed the question, his informants consistently rejected the brain (mapu) or
the place between the ears as the locus of thought.

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234 Brenda Farnell and Charles R. Varela
Genital Knowledge. For the Cashinahua, the genitals are the locus of knowledge of
mortality and immortality, of the life force. The sexual act is brief and fleeting, they
explain, but through it one reproduces oneself. Children are the product of the genitals
and genital activity and give one immortality by enduring beyond ones own lifetime.

Liver Knowledge. The liver provides knowledge of emotions. It is considered the

locus of feeling joy, sorrow, fear, distrust, hope, and pleasure. A generous pleasant
person has a sweet liver or his/her liver knows a lot; a stingy person with a
nasty disposition who always is gloomy and foresees disaster has a bitter liver.
A person with a bitter liver only knows a little. Liver knowledge is expressed in
behavior and demeanor on the surface of the body. A happy disposition produces
a sweet face; a grumpy disposition, a bitter face. One can say of a person
her liver has a lot of knowledge. Her face is very sweet, Her whole body is very
sweet, it always makes us very happy.
Cashinahua consultants consistently rejected any separation of mind and body.
They insisted instead, that different kinds of knowledge are gained through, and
reside in, different parts of the body. In sum, a wise person is one who has a lot
of una (knowledge): their hands know (they are skilled workers); their skin knows
(they have an extensive and intimate knowledge of their physical surroundings).
Their eyes give them knowledge of the spiritual world. Knowledge of their mortality
and immortality resides in their genitals. Their liver provides them with the full
range of emotions. A truly knowledgeable person is one whose whole body knows.
Knowledge is derived from activity and in turn generates activity. It is in action
not contemplation that knowledge is both gained and given expression. A wise
Cashinahuan person is not only one who knows based on past experience, but
also one whose knowledge continues to increase as it is put into action. Knowledge
is aliveit lives and grows in a body that acts, thinks, and feels.
Part Two of this paper begins and ends with reference to contrasting taxonomies
of the bodily senses and personhood in order to draw attention to the fact that
our actions and experiences are shaped by such socially constructed, often
normative, pre-theoretical assumptions. To include them in analyses is not to fall into
the trap of separating ideas from action but to recognize the interdependence
between knowing how and knowing that.


We have suggested that, in the social sciences, and prior to the first somatic
revolution, the body was conceived, for the most part, as a deterministic object.
For example, in the case of classical Freudian psychoanalysis and the unconscious,
agency was given to biology as the psychological unconscious, and not to the
person; in the case of classical sociological theory, agency was given to society
rather than the person. This was classic social scientific talk about the body.

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The Second Somatic Revolution 235
The first somatic revolution, beginning in the 1980s and exemplified in the
work of Csordas, Jackson, Turner, Shilling and others, recovered a discourse of
the feeling of the body, inspired by Merleau Pontys existential phenomenology.
This we have called, Talk of the body.
We have proposed a second somatic revolution, beginning with Williamss
dissertation on the anthropology of human movement in 1975 (to date, unpub-
lished). This introduced the fundamental conception of what we are calling talk
from the body and the concept of a paradigm of dynamic embodiment. A
special feature of this paradigm is that the three forms of body referenced talk
(about, of and from) are complementary moments of everyday human action
(dialogic, interactive, and temporal): the three moments are situated options that
persons may take up as they contextually see fit.
Part One of our paper illustrates how Williamss principle of the primacy of the
embodied, signifying, person is theoretically consistent with a deeper reading of
Merleau Pontys conception of flesh. In that combination we have a theory of
embodiment that is post-Cartesian, a dream that was the explicit though
unfulfilled intention of Merleau Pontys last work, The Visible and the Invisible
Part Two takes issue with the Cartesian residue from the first somatic revolution
found in the separation of semiotic from somatic. Using ethno-historical data
from a Western taxonomy of the senses, ethnographic data from Euro-Americans
in the USA, and taxonomic data on personhood/senses from the Cashinahua
people of Brazil, we illustrate how the semiotic can be usefully liberated when
necessary from a conflation with representational and/or the symbolic. We have
shown how the semiotic can indeed be somatic through dynamically embodied
acts, and how the somatic is necessarily semiotic when it involves the agentic,
meaning-making practices of social persons as they move about. The signifying
here is not some semantico-referential meaning outside of the act, it is meaningful
because it is understood as such by the agent, and therefore a semiosis is at work.
We have also argued that the social sphere is most often multi-sensory and
predicated upon dynamic embodiment, that is, body movement as both speech
and action that are enacted forms of knowledge and understanding. We maintain
that such dynamically embodied signifying acts in symbolically rich spaces are the
dialogical, inter-subjective means by which persons, social institutions and cultural
knowledge are socially constructed, historically transmitted and revised, and so
are constitutive of culture and self.

Brenda Farnell
Associate Professor
Anthropology Department
University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign)
Urbana, IL 61801, USA

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236 Brenda Farnell and Charles R. Varela
Charles R. Varela
Research Associate
Anthropology Department
University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign)
Urbana, IL 61801, USA

This paper is an exercise in one kind of scientific rigorthe precision of meaning
the purpose of which is to promote fundamental theoretical thinking. The particular
meaning we are trying to clarify conceptually represents a fruitful move beyond Cartesian
mind/body dualism in the social sciences. However, we do not replace the mind with the
body (as do some theorists of the first somatic revolution). Our intent is to unify mind and
body, in so far as this is possible, through the concept of a dynamically embodied theory
of personhood. Our emphasis on the doing should not be read as replacing linguistic modes
of meaning making or cognition. We take for granted Harr and Gilletts Second Cognitive
Revolution(1994). Indeed dynamic embodiment necessitates rethinking linguistic practices
as inclusive of both speech and gesture, and therefore includes body movement as a
complementary semiotic modality to sound in what counts as language (See Farnell 1995).
Between 1959 and 1998 new presentations of realism in the practice of science
appeared, including Aronson 1984, Bhaskar 1975, Bunge 1959, Harr 1986c, Mumford
1998, and Wallace1974. Two presentations of realist philosophy for the social sciences are
Bhaskar 1979 and Manicas 2006. In this paper we are informed primarily by Harrs
variety of realism. The critical reason for this is that, of all the discussions of realism
Harres is the only one from which one can reconstruct a systematic and robust conception
of causal powers that promotes its usefulness both in theoretical work and in making
principled judgments concerning the proper and improper ascription of causal powers to
various alleged human structures (e.g. social, cultural, psychological, linguistic and
biological). This paper illustrates the value of Harrs conception to work on the problem
of embodiment in social scientific theory (see Varela 1994, 1995, 1999 and Farnell 1994,
1995, 2000).
See Varela (1995) for critical discussion of Jacksons approach to embodiment and
other uses of Merleau-Pontys phenomenology.
In this regard, Hertzfeld (2001) and Ingold (2000) urge that the body sensed must
presume all of the senses.
There are problems with Langers expression here. It is not a matter of seeing such
dynamic forces literally. Viewers may be focally aware of certain gestures and other
movements (i.e. our talk from the body, but the unfolding dynamics and temporal shape
of a dance may remain in subsidiary awareness, to use Michael Polanyis terms (1958).
We appreciate this insight from one of our reviewers.
Talk and discourse are the most appropriate words to use here for two reasons:
first, linguistics does not own the terms since they have their location in everyday human
life as it is ordinarily lived. Second, human life is lived from, through, for, and about
meaning, and therefore it presupposes that meaning is shared, understood, and exchanged,
though certainly imperfectly.
Note a recent commentary on this point. Merleau-Pontys use of the Schneider case
demonstrates that . . . one is always the subject-body and is never an ethereal, free-floating
transcendental ego (Primozic 2001: 22).

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The Second Somatic Revolution 237
We refer here to the following statement from Goethes Faust (cited in Durantis
Linguistic Anthropology 1997: 214):

It is written: In the beginning was the Word!

Even now I balk. Can no one help?
I truly cannot rate the word so high.
I must translate otherwise.
I believe the spirit has inspired me
and must write: In the beginning there was Mind.
Think thoroughly on this first line,
hold back your pen from undue haste!
Is it mind that stirs and makes all things?
The text should state: In the Beginning there was Power!
Yet while I am about to write this down,
something warns me I will not adhere to this.
The Spirits on my side! the answer is at hand:
I write assured, In the beginning was the Deed.
The chart shows four cycles of five-part sensory wheels. Gould notes that Oken
supplied forced and specious arguments for these fanciful correspondences. . . . These
identifications with sense organs and specification of five part wheels at all scales
throughout nature did not represent an artificial system constructed to aid memory or
facilitate recall, but a discover of natures underlying reality (Gould 1985: 2045).
We find the concept of pre-objective problematic because it employs the dualistic
discourse of inside/outside, public/private when Merleau-Ponty embraces Heideggers
notion of being-in-the-world that transcends this.
Although spoken metaphors such as these have received linguistic attention (e.g.,
Lakoff and Johnson 1980), the constitutive role that body movement plays in their creation
and discursive use has been largely ignored. In the later work of Lakoff (1987) and Johnson
(1987), body movements are relegated to the role of sensate, pre-linguistic precursors of
spoken concepts. In all cases, this kind of talking from the body does not count as
language (see Farnell 1996a).
The actions signs are transcribed using a movement script called Labanotation. The
graphic symbols specify which body parts are moving, dynamic relationships between
them, spatial directions, and movement paths through space. The symbols are placed on
a vertical staff, the centre line of which divides left and right sides of the body.
Simultaneous elements appear along the horizontal axis, successive elements use the
vertical axis with the flow of time going from the bottom of the page to the top. The point
of view is agentic not observational one reads the action of one or multiple actors, as if
moving oneself. See Farnell (1994, 1996b) and Williams (1999) for further details.


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