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Feminist Theory and Embodied Cognition: Bridging the Disciplinary Gap

Sat, August 12, 2:30 to 3:30pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Level 5, 520B


The overlap between the empirical and theoretical agendas of feminist theory and embodied cognition are numerous and (perhaps) surprsing. Both sides work to undo the distinction between mind and body, reason and emotion, and emphasize the embodied and situated nature of knowledge and understanding. While feminists work against the notion that women are somehow more influenced by their bodies than men, embodied cognition shows us how, universally, our bodies fundamentally shape how we think and perceive our world. Surprisingly, these two bodies of literature have remained mostly separate in their usage. This may be, in part, because of a need to empirically bridge their work together. This paper attempts to outline the path for a joint empirical venture. I will argue 1) that Bourdieu’s theoretical framework, and especially his concept of ‘habitus’, provides the grounds on which these perspectives can learn from, and inform one another. 2)To be effective, this joint-venture should look specifically to what I call ‘intensive domains of physical practice’ (IDPP’s), as a means to contextualize their interwoven interests. Lastly, I wish to show how habitus can account for important variations for both perspectives on cognition: for embodied cognition, habitus allows for both universal embodied-cognitive mechanisms and the social, cultural, and practice-specific contexts that inform its content. For gender it allows for both the contextual and unconscious-bodily operation inculcation and enactment of gender, and allows for moments of reflexivity and (potential) agency and social change.


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