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Theoretical Explorations Module XII

March '20

On Body

On Body

We tend to think of the human body as pure presence, a visible site of private sensations – pleasure or pain – that takes public space – social and performative. In this course, the contemporary dancer Padmini Chettur and the philosopher Rohit Goel question the supposition that our bodies are merely anatomical, asking: What is the matter of/with the human body?


We’ll explore how the body matters physically but also discursively – aesthetically, historically, critically, indeed limitlessly – using examples from dance: e.g. Isadora Duncan’s anti-stylization, reconstructed by Boris Charmatz, Ruth St. Denis’s critique of the gazed and objectified body alongside Wen-Chi Su and Arco Renz's ‘Heroine’, the post-expressionist, ‘new dance’ of Sasha Waltz’s work, from ‘Body’ to ‘No Body’, as well as the choreographic practices of Xavier Le Roy, Chandralekha, Jerome Bell, Meg Stuart, and Pichet Klunchan.


The course teaches students to see and think with the dancerly body through close readings of Marx, Freud, and Lacan, critical philosophers who analyse the double-edged sword of the human body: (1) its susceptibility to exploitation – capitalism, normative sexuality, identity politics – and (2) its potential to challenge exploitation through transformative praxis.

About the Professors

Padmini Chettur & Rohit Goel