chapter  1
7 Pages

The primacy of movement

Among the Nakota and Lakota peoples of the Northern Plains of North America takus.kans.kan ‘that which moves’ refers to an intangible power or force that generates movement of all kinds in different levels of reality, including the movement that signifies life itself (Farnell 1995a: 248). Movement is also at the heart of concepts of power among the Kuna people of Panama where burba is the name given to the invisible essence that makes things move: within the eight levels of Kuna reality, each has its own burba.1 Acknowledging and engaging forces with the power to move seems to lie at the heart of many indigenous American ceremonial practices, where we find power, movement, knowledge and action inextricably linked. I mention these ethnographic facts, not to endorse the anthropological habit of insisting that non-Western peoples stand in some kind of dualistic opposition to modern Western societies, but to make the point that the ‘primacy of movement’ as a causal power and philosophy of being and becoming in the world was articulated long before the topic became of interest to Western anthropologists and scholars of the dance and human movement (e.g. Williams 1975; Farnell 1995a; Varela 1994a; Sheets-Johnstone 1999; Ingold 2011).