Research with a twist: a somatics toolkit for ethnographers
Since ethnography’s somatic or affective turn, a researcher’s physical sensations are understood to contribute to insights into people and cultures. However, there are no adequate courses that teach students how to be in their bodies and utilise their body as research instrument. This project translates insights from somatics to scholarly research, and explore the contribution and benefits that can come from such integration.
Somatics enable a structured exploration of body awareness, deepening the researcher’s understanding of subjects’ experiences regarding complex issues, resulting in a richer and more authentic representation of the data.
Using the body as a source of understanding as well as support throughout the entire research cycle benefits the researcher as well as (lay) audience. Firstly, the toolkit offers different approaches to conducting a literature review, gathering data, analysis and dissemination. Secondly, it provides mental and emotional support to the researcher during challenging aspects of the research cycle.
The main aims of this project are to explore embodiment as tool across the entire ethnographic research cycle in order to:
- to interrogate the potential contribution of somatic techniques to ethnographic methodology and investigate the role of physicality and corporeality in interdisciplinary ethnographic research, reflecting on the body as site of knowledge; and
- to contribute to somatic training and awareness within UK anthropology teaching and research through the development of a ‘somatics toolkit’ that enhances the quality and depth of training and supports the physical and mental wellbeing of researchers.
- to design and deliver a toolkit that informs and supports teaching and research in anthropology through live facilitated sessions
- to collect and analyse data on the utility of the toolkit sessions through participant questionnaires, qualitative interviews, focus group discussions and case-studies;
- to produce an accessible tutorial for all levels and two peer- reviewed scholarly articles (one video-based);
- to build toward a body of empirical research that provides the ground for a future project which would make the somatics toolkit available to researchers in a wider interdisciplinary context beyond anthropology.
- What activities and (contextual) conditions will support researchers in bringing body-based and somatic techniques into their specific research context?
- How can improvised, conscious movement and somatic practice in a studio setting support thinking, knowing, analysing and connecting research activities?
- What, if any, are the effects or influences on ethnographic work of engaging more deeply with somatic attention and enhanced ‘physical literacy’?
The primary lens through which data will be viewed is that of sensory anthropology, which recognises the role and meaning of sensory experiences as culturally constituted. It pays close attention to sentiments and emotions which are considered closely related to physical sensations. This approach not only includes the senses as important contributions to research, but also questions the variations of sensory references across cultures.
Autoethnography also recognises the possibilities of the literate body and, as a methodology, has the capacity to embrace paradoxes such as the personal and scholarly, the individual and social, the evocative and analytical, without making the research less rigorous or theoretical.
The hermeneutic cycle will be applied throughout the entire research project as a tool for analysis, moving between subject-object and pre-understanding and understanding to address the intricacy of data and interpretation as an ongoing process and reflect on meaning in multiple layers.
Triangulation of session data, participant questionnaires, qualitative interviews, focus group discussions and case-studies; and multi-researcher analysis of the data will ensure rigour, reliability and credibility of the outcomes. All data will be entered and coded through qualitative analysis software HyperResearch. Apart from the efficacy and utility of the toolkit, we will specifically look at how it will inform ethnographic methods.
Dr. Eline Kieft (Principal Investigator) works as Research Associate for the Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University. She combines her passion for anthropology, qualitative research methodologies, shamanic paradigms, experiential pedagogies, movement as a way of knowing, and her intimate knowledge of the dancer’s body. Eline is also Associate Editor of Dance, Movement and Spiritualities, and a qualified Movement Medicine teacher.
Dr Ben Spatz (Co-Investigator) is Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance, University of Huddersfield, School of Music, Humanities and Media. They are editor of the videographic Journal of Embodied Research, launched in 2017 from Open Library of Humanities, and author of What a Body Can Do: Technique as Knowledge, Practice as Research (Routledge 2015).
Dr. Simon Ellis (Mentor) is a dance artist. He is from New Zealand but now lives in London, and is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University. His recent choreographies are *Pause. Listen* (2014), *Recovery* (2014), and *We Record Ourselves* (2016). He also works closely with Colin Poole as *Colin, Simon and I*, and their latest work is *Our White Friend* (2016). Simon's current focus is on the ways in which screen culture and the rise of screens are changing dance and choreographic practices, ideas and understandings. https://www.skellis.info
Dr. Jerome Lewis, Reader in Social Anthropology at University College London, will offer the toolkit to anthropology students at UCL. Through his extensive research experience with the hunter-gatherers in Central Africa he has an excellent grasp of the needs for embodied training as preparation for fieldwork.
Prof. Vero Benei, Research Director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, advocates embodied research at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris and will input from her own extensive fieldwork in Colombia in her capacity as anthropologist as well as her experience as a dance facilitator.
Dr. Thomas Groß, Director of the Centre for Cybercrime and Computer Security (CCCS), a UK academic centre of excellence in cyber security research. Being a movement practitioner himself, he includes movement in student supervision sessions, and his expertise from an entirely different academic discipline will inform the applicability of the toolkit to other areas than ethnography and social sciences.