The rhizo-somatic spiral: Potentialities and themes in Eastwest Shin Somatics



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This research explores Eastwest Shin Somatics within its current embodied philosophical context in two global locations and suggests that a shift in philosophical approach may open the practice to new possibilities. It engages a theoretical framework and case study methodology, modified to accommodate the COVID 19 pandemic, to discover how skilled practitioners understand and embody key somatic concepts. Participant interviews and document analysis provide insight into what Shin Somatics is and what it means to those within the practice. An examination of the current philosophical undergirding of Shin Somatics provides a starting point to challenge what I perceive as reliance on concepts of self and other within the practice, albeit one that seeks to discover and reinforce inter-relationship of these concepts. Post-structuralist philosophy, particularly that of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari is suggested as a line of flight that both acknowledges Shin Somatics’ current valuation of the individual in community with others and presses it beyond the subject/object turn to the point where somatic practice is an exercise in subjectivation.

The purpose of this research is to press against the current philosophical undergirding of Eastwest Shin Somatics to shift beyond a focus on self in interrelationship with others and the world to self as forming and in-formed by the world, thereby expanding current literature on somatics. Additionally, the research increases understanding of a global somatic practice within specific geographic and socio-historical context and adds to the literature by moving beyond the first-person narrative of innovators within the field. While a great deal of literature explores the philosophical underpinnings of somatic practice and exhorts its benefits in well-being, somatics scholars cite a preponderance of first-person narratives from a homogenous group of somatic innovators (white, Western, and often male) with little quantitative and/or qualitative research to support these narratives (De Giorgi 2015, Gilbert 2014, Ginot 2010). This indicates a gap in the research that critics suggest gives rise to a somatic “doctrine” that privileges the white Western body as a universal entity. Through examining Eastwest Shin Somatics in Mexico and the United States, this research clarifies a specific somatic modality and provides additional first-person narratives that add to the literature. As participants are all women, and almost half identify as Mexican Latin-American, their voices offer much-needed insight about somatic practice.

I engage post-structuralist and process philosophy to suggest that Shin Somatics is rhizo-somatic—an embodied practice that is rhizomatic in nature, and its engagement of intuition as a philosophical method might press current understanding within the practice to become, thereby allowing the Shin Somatics community to let go of a sense of self as subject to attend to the process of subjectivation. I further argue that this process of subjectivation is one that privileges difference within the community and might allow the minor, or that which is not in the forefront of attention, to be foregrounded. I suggest that Eastwest Shin Somatics offers a model of a rhizomatic practice that allows becoming through dancing with each other and nature, respecting individual difference with an attitude of affirmation.



Dance, Somatics, Phenomenology, Post-structuralist Philosophy, Process Philosophy, Eastwest Shin Somatics