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What's in a Name? Somatics and the Historical Revisionism of Thomas Hanna

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 May 2022


This article questions how the historically revisionist history of “the West,” as initiated by Thomas Hanna, informs systems of inclusion, exclusion, and power within the field of “somatics.” Hanna, who coined the term somatics, sought in so doing to root the burgeoning field in a “Western” tradition of philosophy and science that he fundamentally misconstrued. Meanwhile, Hanna's work to formulate a historically and philosophically Western basis of a somatic field continues to provide cover for white somatic practitioners whose institutionally minted somatic forms extract philosophical and practical knowledge from non-white body-mind practices internationally. Subsequent accounts of somatics consequently articulate both the Western history of somatics and its “non-Western influences” on false grounds. This article theorizes the colonial and Western supremacist holdovers within a somatic field that nonetheless gives lip service to postcolonial discourse. Finally, by rebuilding an approach to the “deep time” history relating sōma and somatics, this article proposes how the field of somatics could reground its understanding of the “first-person experience of the body,” informed by Afropessimism, Black Accelerationism, and Afrofuturist thought.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Dance Studies Association

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