» » Mind on the Move: Reflections at the Intersection of Dance and Cognitive Science

Mind on the Move: Reflections at the Intersection of Dance and Cognitive Science

With special guest contributor, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone

Call for Abstracts
Deadline: September 1, 2014

Edited by: Michele Merritt, Ph.D.
Arkansas State University
Department of English and Philosophy

Until recently, very little attention has been paid to the philosophy of dance. Aside from the rare article, or even rarer book (cf. The Phenomenology of Dance, Sheets-Johnstone, 1967/1980), philosophers tended to turn a blind eye toward the ways in which dance might afford insights into conscious experience, embodiment, perception, and knowledge. In the last several years, however, a surge of interest in movement and cognition has emerged. This newly present research has come about chiefly for two reasons: first, the ‘New Wave’ in Cognitive Science – which includes philosophical views that emphasize the embodied (cf. Varela, Thompson & Rosch, 1992), enacted (cf. Noë, 2010), and even distributed (cf. Clark, 2010) nature of thought. As opposed to the more traditional views in philosophy of mind, which tend to characterize thinking as an internal, representational, and fairly passive phenomenon, the current trend has been to reject most, if not all of those theses. Instead, movement in general, and dance in particular, serve as a mechanism by which much of our active minds can be understood, according to these new wave theorists. Second, findings in neuroscience and related fields (cf. Calvo-merino, et al., 2005; 2006) lend empirical support to the notion that movement is not only essential for thinking, but might very well come to constitute certain modes of cognition.

The aim of this volume is to bring together the various strands of research that have begun to explore dance and its connection to cognition more seriously. In the spirit of continuing with what Sheets-Johnstone initiated and has continued to promote (cf. 2009), this book will serve to bring a genuine “Philosophy of Dance” that much closer to reality.

Topics and questions to be explored in this volume include, but are not limited to:

Dance and Embodiment: to what extent does movement shape the way the body is experienced, and how the world is experience through the body? What does the phenomenology of dance tell us about embodied cognition, and in turn, what do theories of embodied cognitive science afford dance research?

Dance and Agency: Gallagher, e.g. (2005) has proposed that in wilful embodied action, we maintain either a sense of ownership, or a sense of agency, or both. In pathological or non-normal cases (Alien Hand Syndrome, e.g.) these two senses of bodily control can become disrupted. In what ways does movement as it occurs across various forms of dance implicate agency? Do dancers always maintain a sense of explicit control over their bodies? What does the experience of agency in dance teach us about agency in general?

Dance and Intersubjectivity: What are the social elements of dance and how do they reflect, add to, or differ from current trends in theorizing about social cognition? For example, cognitive scientists tend to argue that we understand each other either by forming theories about other minds (cf. Scholl & Leslie, 1999) or by simulating what another person might be thinking via mirror neurons (cf. Gallese & Goldman, 1998). What might studies of dancers (cf. Calvo- merino, 2005, 2006) reveal about the operative mechanism behind ‘mindreading’? From a phenomenological perspective, are there parallels to be drawn between the idea that we experience the world chiefly through an intersubjective lens (cf. Gallagher & Hutto, 2008) and the way dancers experience each other, especially in something like contact improvisation?

Dance and Perception: Current trends in philosophy of mind have begun to emphasize the dynamic nature of thought in general, but even perception, it is claimed (cf. Noe, 2004) is an active engagement with the world. How do dancers provide a living exampleof enacted perception at work? From the way dancers perceive each other and their environment, to the way audience members, while watching dancers perform, might be subject to what Sheets-Johnstone has termed the “illusion of force,” what can philosophers gain from considering perception and movement as they are intertwined in dance?

The Politics of the Dancing Body: how are cultural norms, gender and race stereotypes, and ablist bias woven into the way dance is produced, performed, and observed? How might these more social phenomena shape even the way a dancer experiences his or her body? In other words, is it possible that the aforementioned categories this volume seeks to explore – perception, embodiment, agency, intersubjectivity – are themselves products of the already socially inscribed mode of movement that each type of dance serves to illustrate?

Submission Guidelines

Interested contributors:
– Submit an abstract of no more than 500 words to Michele Merritt at mmerritt@astate.edu
– Abstract should state clearly what the general focus of the chapter would be (i.e. would it fall more into the embodiment, intersubjectivity, agency, perception, or politics sections?)
– Please prepare submissions for blind review – send one file with no identifying information, along with another file containing the title of your proposed contribution, and your name/affiliation/contact info
– Please submit abstracts by September 1, 2014.