Thinking bodies: Practice theory, deleuze and professional education

Year: 2012

Author: Green, Bill, MacLure, Maggie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Imagine a classroom – a teacher and her class. The classroom is located in a primary school, somewhere, anywhere. The world is turning, and 'education' is going on, is being practised, here, now… Voices, bodies, spaces. “Look at me, everyone.”

This paper addresses the question of the body in professional practice, learning and education. It asks: Does the body matter? How? It explores what it means to think the body in such circumstances, to think about the body, to draw the body into Thought. It focuses first on what has come to be called practice theory and philosophy – a loose assemblage of arguments and interests centred on practice as concept and primary organising principle for the social world. Schatzki (2002), a key figure in the contemporary 'practice turn', is interrogated here as a representative instance. Informed by both Heidegger and Wittgenstein, his scholarship represents a significant watershed in the literature on practice theory and philosophy. However what marks it is a deep ambivalence towards language, textuality and signification, and a consistent refusal of figures such as Derrida but also Deleuze, and 'postmodern' perspectives more generally. Of relevance here is the manner in which the body is mobilised in Schatzki's self-described 'residually humanist' theory of practice. In this paper we draw specifically on Deleuze within an explicitly post-Cartesian exploration of the body in (professional) practice. This involves seeking first of all a way of thinking the body – that is, of rendering the body as an object of Thought, or rather as a specific concept. This means among other things working Deleuzian notions such as affect, virtuality, multiplicity, etc to reconsider how practice and the body might come together, analytically and empirically. In particular, the challenge here is one of avoiding unities and identities, and hence thinking bodies (ie the body as necessarily, inevitably pluralised, or as multiplicity), rather than in the singular. What (other) bodies are to be taken into account in our exemplary classroom? With all this in mind, then, we draw in a recent argument (Cutler & McKenzie, 2011) regarding the body in Deleuze and the priority of learning over knowledge to rethink the relationship between bodies and practice in professional education.

Cutler, A & McKenzie, I (2011) Bodies of learning, in L. Guillaume & J. Hughes (eds) Deleuze and the Body. Edinburgh University press.

Schatzski, TR (2002) The Site of the Social. Penn State University Press.