Rhythm and Animality in Merleau-Ponty’s Ontology of the Flesh

One of the stereotypical notions that are used to characterize the post-modern turn is that “It” championed the end of grand/meta-narratives, but it might be more useful these days to focus on how various “micro” studies (ethnographic, phenomenological, etc) have brought to light the lack of any actual common standards/norms of measure at work in our practices, so we must be wary of attempts to re-vitalize/naturalize underlying/overarching themes/cycles/etc.


see also: http://sociologicalimagination.org/archives/3222

In this podcast Stephen Turner, plenary speaker for the theory stream at this year’s BSA conference, talks about his new book Explaining the Normative. The discussion explores changing theories of normativity and the different meanings they hold for philosophy and social science.

6 responses to “Rhythm and Animality in Merleau-Ponty’s Ontology of the Flesh

  1. I enjoy thinking of rhythmicity in choreographic terms, in which it can be seen as a non-verbal corporeal type of refrain. The poly-rhythmic conjoured in rhythmicity corresponds to a sort of “strange attractor” effect in which the locus of attraction remains mobile and shifting. I’m thinking of techniques like exchanges of satelliting (dancer B copies dancer A, adding variations, before A begins to imperceptively shift to the “passive” mimetic position- but imagine this with a whole company of bodies) in which there are clearly temporary orders established among bodies that communicate entirely through movement that have their own immanent logic of emergences. As one order is established it is already giving way to a new order. In this way the perceptual grammar of movement tends towards thematics that revel in their instability but- as continuous with one another- never breakdown into utter discord, at least insofar as a piece of dance is a piece of dance.

    On this, I recently saw a brilliant (and I think quite post-nihilist in tone) piece called Instructions to the Animal, in which the performance seemed to attain coherence and (meta-)stability through a deconstruction of its own micro-grammatical components. If I can actually get the time to do so, I will hopefully be interviewing the choreographer of that piece for this here blog…so I can embarrass myself with a stunning lack of dance knowledge.

    Its a shame the audio on this lecture isn’t clearer than it is…

    • I’m with you on the choreographic (I think I sent you some related Erin Manning a while back who I often find more useful/interesting than Massumi, tho I love the idea of a Sense Lab) but not so sure about the establishment/logic/grammar part, that aside the degree to which we can attend to (and eventually cultivate) the habitual and start to flesh out a better neurophenomenology of what Freud called sublimation ( and leave behind the search for the holy grails of the Sublime) than the better off we should be. Alva Noe has had some interesting exchanges will choreographers that are worth checking out: http://www.nypl.org/audiovideo/william-forsythe-alva-no%C3%AB

      • I’m thinking of grammar as a perceptual grammar. Just as there are structural rules (logic) to languages, there are also structural rules to bodily movement (these rules are there in our genetics, in our metabolic processes, in the range of possible articulations of the skeleto-muscular system etc). At the same time, there is also an idea of a “perceptual grammar”…a phrase that the choreographer I’ve been talking to uses… that, to me anyway, is reminiscent of the distribution of the sensible. Where Ranciere is talking about socio-political spaces, what can and cannot appear in them, this perceptual grammar would structure how we come to see bodies, what bodies- for me, specifically in the broader corporealist sense- do to structure our perception. This goes beyond, or beneath, the notion of distribution of the sensible…it immediately point to the idea that our perception is a compositional enterprise, an achievement.

      • You did send me stuff on Erin Manning…I haven’t got to her books yet, but the stuff on object-perception in autism is brilliant.

        I’ve seen some of Noe’s stuff with choreographers…again, I really like his approach.

      • attending to expressions and expectations/receptions are all vital, I actually don’t think that there are structural rules/logic to languages but that’s a whole other discussion (tho if we get to working out some particulars/case-studies down the road where it comes up we can pick it up than), YES all of living is an achievement, doings if you will, no steady/solid states…

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s