Sentient Performativities: thinking alongside the human

July 3-7 2022, Dartington Hall

Sentient Performativities: thinking alongside the human*

July 3-7 2022  • Dartington Hall, UK

The 2022 symposium investigates somatic practices and how they can foster embodied ecological awareness and communication between the human and other than human worlds. Traditionally somatic practices are most pertinent in dance and movement disciplines, rooted in the humanist perspective and primarily focusing on emancipating introception (the body as experienced from within). Current thinking suggests that such practices, while having the human self at the centre, can also highlight the reciprocal relationship between the self and the environment. Sentient Performativities: Thinking Alongside The Human will revisit our entanglement with the natural world from a felt perspective and bring together multiple fields of thought, practice and research that share embodied approaches to bridge the human, plant and animal divide.

As with all symposia, we invite a broad spectrum of practitioners, fields and disciplines into an open space where we can explore common interests and diverse practices. Such diversity also encourages new approaches, multifaceted formats and modes of presentation.

Scientists are increasingly discovering that cognition is not a brain-separate entity but intricately informed by the sensual capacities of the body, giving rise to the field of embodied cognition. We know the experiential body as the locus of all cognitive and bodily perception. It has evolved in rich multi-sensory environments and is built to thrive and be fed multi-sensorial information. This allows for the development of a versatile human being that is able to develop abilities to respond and adapt creatively to changing circumstances. Tendencies of an increasingly digitised world are to impoverish our diverse sensorial and tactile engagements and to privilege the mental over the physical. This, ultimately and inevitably leads to a loss of sensory capacity both inward and outward. Although the natural world will never cease to be alive, we are in danger, as humans who are beginning to loose touch with our own bodies and sense of aliveness, of becoming alienated entirely from the living, breathing world around us. The more alienated we become the less likely we are to care for our fragile planet.

Sentient Performativities brings together different voices, such as those who, for example, practice the somatic in their work with plants, be they small or large scale farmers, permaculturists, herbalists, ecologists or gardeners. In the same way we wish to highlight the physical communication between human and animal and embrace practices with animals where the interspecies communication reaches beyond the reading of body language, but extends into felt experience of the animal body. We are interested how the somatic is informing new areas within academia, within the arts, crafts and other practices and research.

This broad reach into somatic-informed practices seems increasingly essential in view of the growing schism between the human and natural worlds. We invite you to articulate how you viscerally experience the agency of all living things. Reflecting on the emergence of new practices we are interested to both highlight as well as de-centre somatic work from dance and movement disciplines to see how a somatic approach is reaching into other practices.

We invite you to explore with us new embodied dialogues between disciplines, opening up as well as defining boundaries, questioning and learning how somatic-informed practices can offer more intimacy in relating to ourselves and to other species, and looking at how this can inform new practices and modes of relationship at large. This symposium seeks delicate antidotes to an increasing dis-embodiment and apathy towards the aliveness of the more than human world and wishes to revoke the prevailing operating system based on dead matter. We propose that eco-somatic practices can contribute towards the cultivation of sensorial capacities that assist our awareness of how we co-evolve within expressive ecologies and that what happens to our environments is inevitably and inexorably happening to us.


A few key questions we will consider:

Can somatic practices and dance offer new modes of thinking, perceiving and being-with, necessary for an embodied planetary citizenship and stewardship?

How can the increase of somatic awareness within ourselves and our environments invoke greater care, and how can care foster more empathetic, responsible and sustainable action?

Is it possible for such practices to support the development of new ethics, new legislation, updated nature protection, animal rights, new bios, collective actions and new ways of living more connected and sustainable lives.

How does the ecological crisis call on, disrupt, radicalise and transform fields such as dance, choreography and somatic practices?

How can such a way of knowing be trained, passed on and how can it inform new fields within dance and movement practices as well as become relevant beyond the field of dance ?

How do somatic practices inform our work with plants and animals, when we relate from one body to another ?

How can education include animate dimensions of the world ? What are these curriculums that are working on re-growing these capacities in the next generation ?

What can we learn from nature connection practices and indigenous ways to re-kindle the somatic and physical embeddedness within an animate earth?

How do artists work with the visceral of their environments and materials? How does their work invite us into somatic relationships?


The deadline for proposals is November 15. Read more info and the detailed callout

*The title is inspired by the book: Sentient Performativities of Embodiment: Thinking alongside the Human edited by Lynette Hunter, Elisabeth Krimmer, Peter Lichtenfels, Lexington Books 2016