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Senior Research Seminar: Dr Rosie Jones McVey (University of Cambridge)

When Oct 18, 2019
from 04:15 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Edmund Leach Seminar Room, Dept of Social Anthropology, Free School Lane
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Dr Rosie Jones McVey (University of Cambridge)

Seeking 'contact': British horsewomen and the ethics of communication

British horsewomen aim to forge a connection with their horse that is so
close, it feels as though the two partners move and think as one.  Their
ambition is to reach such a level of embodied attunement that both horse
and rider are empowered through the harmonising of mindful bodies, and
able to achieve exceptional states of balance, strength, togetherness,
lightness and cadence. The states of ideal ‘engagement’ that they
describe are in some ways reminiscent of an academic move to attend to
embodied attunement as an alternative to a representational model of
communication. However, as part of riders’ endeavours to attune with
their horses, they identify risks. They guard against the possibility
that their ‘feel’ for connectivity may in fact be a delusion or
projection. They are sharply critical of themselves and of one another
in maintaining a distinction between enhancing the  horse’s body, and,
on the other hand, over-aesthetisizing and dominating it. A high degree
of expertise has developed around the scrutiny of horse and riders’
minds and bodies, so as to ascertain the subtle differences between a
‘true contact’ and a ‘false outline’. A representational theory of mind
is therefore advanced and refined by these projects, even as the aim is
to reach a state of sublime togetherness that surpasses representational
communication. This paper uses ethnographic observations of these quests
for ‘contact’ to investigate how riders feel about communication. The
utopian ideal of authentic connection, coupled with the scrutiny for
truth and falsity, make this an important example of ethical attitudes
towards communication in a late modern context that some have described
as ‘post-truth’.

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