chapter  8
11 Pages

The ab(sense) of kinesthesia in Western thought

Overview In this chapter, I deepen the case for a theory of dynamic embodiment in the social sciences by focusing on kinesthesia – our sensory awareness of the position and movement of the body. Notably missing from the traditional Western taxonomy of the five senses, this absence continues in recent literature on the senses generated by the first somatic turn. I examine this omission 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. I proceed by taking issue with a Cartesian residue from the first somatic turn and rethinking the relationship between ‘semiotic’ and ‘somatic,’ rejecting a separation of the semiotic (as necessarily representational, cognitive, or intellectualist) from the somatic (as non-linguistic or non-conceptual), or contrasting the phenomenological with the social and symbolic (cf. Jackson 1983a, b; Csordas 1999). I argue that dynamically embodied acts illustrate how the semiotic can indeed be somatic, and the somatic is necessarily semiotic when it involves the agentive 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 an agent, and therefore a semiosis is a work.