The Embodied Thesis

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Australian Association for Research in Education


Faculty of Education and Arts


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications




This article was originally published as: Phillips, M. J. (2003). The embodied thesis. Proceedings of Newcastle Mini-Conference 2003. Newcastle, NSW. Australian Association for Research in Education. Original article available here


If doctoral studies seek to develop and accumulate expert knowledge across the myriad facets of human experience, then consideration needs to be given to the varying forms of intelligence through which that knowledge is explored and made manifest. Intra and inter disciplinary approaches to dance suggest that the physical body may be situated at the centre of ‘knowing,’ thereby challenging the privileged position of the word in western scholarship. The first approach probes embodiment to examine the choreographer/dancer, Marie Chouinard’s statement that “[w]hen I dance, my body becomes a laboratory for experience.” Such experiential analysis has the potential to complement and make visible the sensate dimensions of medical science, although dance’s principal engagement focuses on the imaginative flesh of complex physical thought. The second approach moves outwards from embodiment, triggered by Cezanne’s enigmatic observation that “[m]an [is] absent from but entirely within the landscape” which, in my propositional translation, becomes moving human bodies are absent but entirely within theoretical paradigms. Both approaches raise critical issues about the management of embodied knowledge within doctoral assessment paradigms. Can performances, like written theses, ‘analyse and explain,’ is dance ‘legible’ and how can such knowledge be stored?

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