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Embodied Knowing

Starts: 18 September 2009

Project Image - Networking Cables

Understanding Affective Dynamics in the 

Researching Affect and Affective 

Communication Seminar Series


Embodied Knowing

18th September 2009 – Cardiff University


While countertransference information is understood as embodied feelings,  the tradition of citing affect within the body and utilising the senses to study affect has best been developed within phenomenology, a holistic method, which is grounded in perception, action  and experience. Thus phenomenological methods also seek to ground knowing within the totality of experience. In addition to this, psychotherapists in the object relations tradition of psychoanalysis make much of an embodied counter transference in which they argue that it is possible to experience and feel within the body that which cannot be tolerated by a distressed other. In both these traditions, embodied ways of knowing and make salient using a sense of intuition in a setting, which suggests an embodied way of knowing which is also about the bodily communication and circulation of affect. What might social researchers gain from an engagement with phenomenologists and clinicians? How might embodied knowing be used as a research tool? How does the emphasis on action and sensation allow us to think differently about researching affect? For this theme we will bring in two different traditions of phenomenology, that derived from the work of Merleau Ponty, who stresses the primacy of perception and Maxine Sheets Johnstone who stresses the primacy of movement. We brought major phenomenologist Maxine Sheets Johnstone into dialogue with phenomenological researcher Ian Burkitt and psychoanalyst Susie Orbach. This workshop involved hands-on methodological work.

Maxine Sheets Johnstone stressed the centrality of the body in movement which she presented by asking the participants to undertake various exercises involving movement. This created some interesting dynamics within the group and illustrated the profound issues around embodiment which are avoided within a Cartesian academic framework. Susie Orbach argued that embodiment is central to her clinical practice and developed a discussion about how these insights can be used in research practice.



- Professor Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Durham University is a philosopher, former dancer and Emeritus Professor at the University Oregan. 

  • Maxine Sheets Johnstone The corporeal turn: an interdisciplinary reader, Imprint-academic, 2009

- Professor Susie Orbach, London School of Economics, Susie Orbach is a psychoanalyst in private practice in London.

  • Susie Orbach Bodies, Profile, 2009



Professor Susie Orbach - 18/09/09 from Valerie Walkerdine on Vimeo.


Professor Maxine Sheets-Johnstone - 18/09/09 from Valerie Walkerdine on Vimeo.





Name: Professor Valerie Walkerdine

Other information

Open To: Invitation Only