Creative investigation of the embodiment of womanhood through dance: bodies, gender and becoming
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2018 Dr. Tamara Borovica
This thesis uses dance as a method to explore and problematise young women’s embodiment from a feminist perspective. Drawing on a rich history of feminist research on the body (Grosz 1994, 2017, Birke 1999, Bordo 1993, Bray & Colebrook 1998, Braidotti 2002, 2011, 2013), I seek to contribute to advancing a more inclusive perspective on the embodiment of womanhood by emphasising the potentiality of what young women sense, feel, think, imagine and do. In doing so, I develop a rhizomatic, diffractive and aesthetic exploration of the embodiment of womanhood that evolved through collaborative performance ethnography with a group of tertiary students interested in creative methods and feminist issues. Much has been said about embodiment, young womanhood and gender. Young women’s bodies are a prominent theme in the media, in public culture, and across a range of sciences. Across the wide range of perspectives and debates, a common presumption is that women’s bodies are a problem. They are objectified, sexualised, controlled, abused, gazed at, misrepresented, to name just a few most prevalent descriptors. In contemporary discourses on women’s embodiment, women’s bodies are portrayed as fixed, passive objects subject to socio-cultural-historical inscription. Young women’s bodies I engage with and explore in this research are neither finished nor passive, and the meanings that inform, challenge or produce them are not static. To explore ways in which young women create their embodied beings, I draw from relational materialist ontologies (Spinozian, Deleuzo-Guattarian, Baradian and Braidottian) to inform dance as a way of knowing and as a method in this research, with creative writing as a means of sense-making. In this research, I borrow from Braidotti (2011) to consider women’s bodies as complex assemblages that cut across natural and cultural domains and that can be seen as flows of becoming. To explore this complex entanglement of the natural and cultural in young women’s becomings, a group of non-dancers danced together to produce and explore feelings, thoughts, ideas, sensations and/or creative artefacts about embodied womanhood. To this end, this thesis presents an exploration of the embodiment of womanhood as a series of multidirectional processes of connecting to, and disconnecting from, different material and virtual bodies, the effects of which were sometimes complimentary and sometimes conflicting. I suggest that young womanhood is actively produced (and provoked) through events of becoming, in a range of ways, often simultaneously contradicting its own production. Gendering, as a complex socio-material process, informed and limited young women’s becomings in this research, as much as it kindled and provoked their further unpredictable becomings. This conception of womanhood as a movement towards and away from social avoids seeing gender only in segmented, striated spaces; instead it invites conceptualisation of gendering as a purposeful but also free-flowing process. To this end, by moving away from simplistic notions of passive, gendered bodies, this thesis offers a look at how bodies, things, concepts, and energies continuously make and remake possibilities for embodiment and gendering.
Keywordsthe embodiment of womanhood; the body; gender; becoming; creative methods; dance; relational materialist philosophy; new materialisms
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