What a Body Can Do  book cover
1st Edition

What a Body Can Do

ISBN 9781138854109
Published March 12, 2015 by Routledge
294 Pages

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Book Description

In What a Body Can Do, Ben Spatz develops, for the first time, a rigorous theory of embodied technique as knowledge. He argues that viewing technique as both training and research has much to offer current debates over the role of practice in the university, including the debates around "practice as research." 

Drawing on critical perspectives from the sociology of knowledge, phenomenology, dance studies, enactive cognition, and other areas, Spatz argues that technique is a major area of historical and ongoing research in physical culture, performing arts, and everyday life.

Table of Contents


Foreword ix


Acknowledgements xi

Introduction: What Can a Body Do? 1

A body can … 1

Five stories 5

From performance to practice 9

Embodiment and sustainability 11

Methodology and chapters 14

1 An epistemology of practice 23

Which epistemology? 23

A selective genealogy of technique 26

The structure of practice 38

Branches and pathways 44

Linguistic peninsulas 48

Sedimented agency 50

The trope of excess 56

Research in embodied technique 60

The problem of the substrate 64

2 The invention of postural yoga 73

Yoga and physical culture 73

A royal success 75

The yoga wars 80

Healthism and “performance” 83

Two studios in the East Village 86

The gendering of yoga 92

Between athletics and somatics 95

A therapeutic turn 100

What is physical education? 104

3 Actors without a theatre 113

Craft and presence 113

Beyond “actor training” 117

Stanislavski’s threshold 122

The method of physical actions 129

Grotowski’s legacy 132

Songs and other epistemic objects 136

A research culture in acting 147

Interdisciplinarities 153

Laboratories 163

4 Gender as technique 171

How to slice a cheese 171

Research in everyday life 175

The problem of sexual difference 179

Fracturing the feminine 186

Masculinities 191

Identity and inertia 197

Current research in gender 203

New paradigms 209

5 Embodied research in the university 217

Blue skies? 217

The epistemic impulse 221

“Practice as Research” 225

The archive and epistemic distance 234

Research design and methodology 242

The fourth division 247

Bibliography 253

Index 275

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Ben Spatz is Lecturer in Drama, Theatre and Performance at the University of Huddersfield. He holds a PhD in Theatre from The Graduate Center, CUNY, and has been a member of the Performance as Research working groups of both IFTR and ASTR. Ben is founder and artistic director of Urban Research Theater since 2004.


"Ben Spatz’ examination of concepts of technique and practice in embodied knowledge is a richly rewarding read, both for its rigorous discussion and clarification of ideas which can often be confused and confusing, and for its thought-provoking analysis of a range of examples." --Susie Crow, Oxford Dance Writers