Thinking through the body: stories about writing a Phd thinking-with chairs when sitting on the ground.

Year: 2017

Author: Galvez, Sarita

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Chairs are an ordinary technology present in every Western household, public transport, waiting room, toilet, and also a prominent artefact in early learning centres and schools. Even though for most of us it is almost impossible to imagine a life without chairs, they are relatively 'new' and have been widely spread in the world for not more than 200 years (Ingold, 2011; Cranz, 1998).

After spending all my formal educational years glued to a chair in post-Pinochet Chile, I argue that chairs are a powerful technology to think with a new materialisms' lens. Feminist new materialisms is a school of thought that explores how matter comes to matter, and how we forth worlds that are not pre-given but emerge in intra-actions where agency is distributed between human, non-human and more-than-human simultaneous forces at play in present continuum (Barad, 2007).

When thinking-with chairs becomes apparent how bodies, minds, chairs, learning, geography, politics, and economics are cut together apart in contingent place-specific practices. How sedentary habits of thought so critiqued by feminist philosopher Rosi Braidotti are tied to our daily-life practices of inhabiting the world thinking, reading, writing on chairs? What ways of worlding worlds are excluding from the chair? How this matters to think more liveable futures for all?

I embark on an interdisciplinary experimental journey of thought where I play with my background as physiotherapist, weaving with threads from the field of new materialisms, and Chilean biologist and thinker Francisco Varela's notion of radical embodiment. Particularly attending to the 5Es of the mind as embodied, embedded, enactive, extensive and emotional (Varela et al, 1991; Thompson and Varela, 2001) with the materials encounters I had in Chile as part of my research trip.

As Ingold (2011) explains the chair is one of the symbols of civilisation and modernity as he argues that we are not beings that move, but we are our movements. If we are our movements, and we take seriously new materialisms' call for thinking through the living threads of our bodies, then our practices of thought are necessarily contingent, embodied, and concrete. Therefore, I explore what becomes possible when I write a Phd thinking-with chairs meanwhile experimenting with the multiple possibilities of reading/thinking/writing sitting, walking, and lying on the ground.