Embodied Perception: Redefining the Social

Theory and Psychology 11 (5):655-670 (2001)
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Common to different versions of social constructionism is the definition of discourse as taking place between persons. Experiences which take place in the absence of immediate others, such as thinking to oneself or reading a text, are treated as secondary phenomena, as introjected versions of social utterance-gestures. This article asserts that representative constructionist articulations of between-person relationality rest on abstractions masking a more primary locus of sociality. I offer an alternative formulation of the social as the embodiment of sensate experience, borrowing from Merleau-Ponty's and Gendlin's accounts. Sensate experience is already radically relational before and beyond any notion of sociality as between-person voices-gestures, generating more intimate and mobile possibilities of interpersonal understanding than is offered via discursive readings of terms like social, language and embodiment. Note; Although this paper pertains to social constructionist positions, my central criticism of these approaches applies as well to Deleuze's bio-political notion of sociality. While constructionists restrict their focus to inter-personal communication, Deleuze broadens the notion of language to include the living and material world, which includes the body. This places the site of otherness and sociality within intentionality itself via its entanglement with affect. Nevertheless, Deleuze's treatment of affective-intentional dynamics, rather than dismantling social constructionism's between-person abstractions, manages to import them into bodily process.
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