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Department of Social Anthropology


Dr Laurie Denyer Willis (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

Bodies Under Pressure: Sensory Forms of Knowing within Rio de Janeiro’s Suburbs


Over the past decade, ethnographies of bodies that move, perceive and react - bodies that ache, eavesdrop, glare and hurtle - have become an entry point into understanding the emotionally charged and sensorially rich ways that worlds and their atmospheres are intuited, generated and endured. These modes of ethnographic attention have allowed anthropologists to attend to bodily sensation and affect in conversation with power relations, in order to illuminate what is political about quotidian bodily experience. This paper seeks to rethink the connections between sensory forms of knowing and late liberal modes of hope and ‘resilience.’ Via ongoing ethnographic work in Rio de Janeiro’s suburbs, I think about a range of affective and sensory registers in order to examine bodily pressure, and the ways in which bodies are forcibly bent, snapped and plied, or asked to, as Sarah Ahmed puts it, “take more of it” and bounce back. This paper situates the body and its sensory engagement as central to any discussion on resilience, space and the political. How can we, as ethnographers, deploy a kind of bodily anthropology that perceives and articulates pressure and its relationship to forms of resistance, resignation and reimagination? 

Thursday, 22 November, 2018 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
Edmund Leach Room Department of Social Anthropology Free School Lane, Cambridge