restricted access 17. Collective Body Memories
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17 Collective Body Memories Human bodies are similar all over the world, but their habits, postures, and comportment are to a large extent shaped by culture. Cultures preordain and suggest certain ways of sitting, standing, walking, gazing, eating, praying, hugging, washing, and so on. In so doing, they induce certain dispositions and frames of mind associated with these bodily states and behaviors : for example, attitudes of dominance and submission, approximation and distance, appreciation and devaluation, benevolence or resentment, and the like. Cultural practices, rituals, roles, and rules shape the individual’s techniques of the body, as Mauss (1935) termed them, and the resulting way the body moves and comports itself is one of the main carriers of cultural tradition. As Bourdieu notes, cultures are thus “treating the body as memory; they entrust to it in abbreviated and practical, i.e., mnemonic, form the fundamental principles of culture. The principles embodied in this way are placed beyond the grasp of consciousness” (Bourdieu 1977, 94). The main period for the transmission of these influences is of course early childhood and upbringing, which consists to a large extent of an “implicit pedagogy, capable of instilling a whole cosmology, an ethic, a metaphysic, a political philosophy, through injunctions as insignificant as ‘stand up straight’ or ‘don’t hold your knife in your left hand’” (ibid.). This intimate connection between culture and embodiment is bound to a specific kind of memory, which usually escapes our conscious recollection or deliberate actualization—a system of embodied habits and skills acquired by the individual, which may also be termed body memory (Fuchs 2011a, 2012). This memory is of a kind quite different from the episodic memory by which we recollect and represent the past as such. Through repeated and typical interactions with others an individual habitus is formed, and with it the norms and rules of culture are inscribed into the body, yet in such a way that the resulting memory corresponds to an embodied and implicit knowing how, not to a knowing or remembering that. The social interactions that shape the individual body memory usually follow certain patterns , styles, and rhythms (e.g., turn-taking), and they are often directed toward shared goals. Following Di Paolo and De Jaegher (this volume), we might also speak of “participation genres,” such as joint play, shared meals, salutations, queuing, bedtime rituals, and the like. Thomas Fuchs 334 T. Fuchs Since such habitual or ritualized forms of embodied interaction are possible only in dyads or groups, the question arises whether we can also posit a superindividual level of memory formation , resulting in what may be termed collective body memory. This would be a crucial complement to the notion of “collective memory,” which has been introduced by Halbwachs (1939) and further investigated by cultural anthropologists (e.g., Pennebaker, Paez, and Rime 1997; Assmann and Livingstone 2006), but which is mainly related to verbal tradition or explicit shared commemoration of the past. The interbodily basis of collective memory is confirmed by the multifarious forms of ritualized and synchronized movements and performances, which contribute to building human culture. In his seminal work Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History , McNeill (1995) has collected compelling evidence that coordinated rhythmic movement —and the shared feelings it evokes—has played a profound role in creating and sustaining human communities. Synchronized action and chant facilitated group labor in rowing, tilling the soil, moving megaliths, and so on. From festival village dances or the chanting rituals of churches to the close-order drill of early modern armies, various forms of joint bodily movement have supported groups in their capacity for cooperation. This is based, above all, on shared bodily sensations and feelings, or what may be called interbodily resonance (Froese and Fuchs 2012), with the effect of weakening the psychological boundaries between the self and the group, and enhancing the sense of community and identity. More recently, these dynamics of social coordination and synchronized movement have also been explored from an enactive and dynamic systems perspective, emphasizing the coupling of interacting systems and the emerging autonomy of the interaction processes as such (De Jaegher and Di Paolo 2007; Fuchs and De Jaegher 2009; Schmidt and Richardson 2008; Wiltermuth and Heath 2009; Oullier and Kelso 2009; Valdesolo, Ouyang, and DeSteno 2010). In what follows, I will investigate the idea of a collective form of body memory, which develops in dyads or social groups through repeated interactions and preordains a coordinated behavior of the members. This idea is...