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Somatic Modes of Attention Author(s): Thomas J. Csordas Source: Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 8, No. 2
Somatic Modes of Attention Author(s): Thomas J. Csordas Source: Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 8, No. 2

Somatic Modes of Attention Author(s): Thomas J. Csordas Source: Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 8, No. 2 (May, 1993), pp. 135-156 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association Stable URL:

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Somatic Modes of Attention

Thomas J. Csordas

DepartmentofAnthropology Case WesternReserve University

Embodimentas a paradigm or methodological orientation requires thatthe body be understoodas the existential ground of culture-not as an object thatis "good

to think," but as a subject that is "necessary to be." To argue by analogy, a phenomenologicalparadigm of embodimentcan be offeredas an equivalent, and complement, to the semiotic paradigm of cultureas text.Muchas Barthes (1986) draws a distinctionbetween the work and the text, a distinctioncan be drawn between the body and embodiment. For Barthes, the work is a fragment of substance, the material object that occupies the space of a bookstoreor a library shelf. The text, in contrast, is anindeterminate methodological field thatexists only when caught up in a discourse, and that is experiencedonly as activity and production(1986:57-68). In parallel fashion, the body is a biological, material entity, while embodimentcan be understoodas an indeterminate methodological

field defined by

perceptualexperience andthe mode of presence and engagement

in theworld.As applied to anthropology, the model of thetextmeansthatcultures

can be understood, for purposes of internaland comparativeanalysis, to have properties similarto texts (Ricoeur1979). In contrast, the paradigm of embodiment means not that cultureshave the same structureas bodily experience, but that

embodied experience is the startingpoint for analyzing human participation in a culturalworld. To best understandthe theoretical origin of this problematic, it is useful to distinguish betweenwhathas come to be called the anthropology of the body and

a strandof phenomenology explicitly concerned with embodiment. Although

glimpses of the body have appearedregularlythroughout the history of ethnography (e.g., Leenhardt1979 [1947]), an anthropology of the body was inauguratedby Douglas(1973), andelaboratedin thecollections by BenthallandPolhemus (1975) and Blacking(1977). The historicalwork of Foucault (1973, 1977) provided new impetus, evidentin theworksof Scheper-Hughes andLock (1987), Martin (1987), andlike-minded sociologist B. Turner (1984). The workof Bourdieu (1977, 1984)

shifted an earlier focus on the body as

expression to an awarenessof the body as the locus of social practice. This is powerfully evidentin Comaroff's (1985) work, whichexhibitsa theoreticalmove-

the source of symbolism or means of

Cultural Anthropology8(2):135-156. Copyright ?


1993, American Anthropological Association.



ment from the social body of representation to the socially informed body of practice, while still emphasizing the traditionalfocus on body symbolism. Meanwhile, an opening for phenomenology in anthropologicaltheory has come with the possibility of articulating a concept of experience aroundthe edges of the monolithictextualistand representationalistparadigm dominated by Levi- Strauss,Derrida, andFoucault.Geertz's (1973) concernwith cultureas text was complementedby interestin the phenomenology of Alfred Schutz, and with the distinction between experience-near and experience-farconcepts. It has finally become legitimate for Wikan (1991) to tacklethe problem of an experience-near

anthropology, for Turner and Bruner

experience," andfor JoanandArthurKleinman (1991) to declarean "ethnography of experience,"approaches that are more or less explicitly phenomenological. Among such approaches, a few scholars-influenced especiallyby Merleau-Ponty (1962, 1964) and occasionally by thinkerssuch as Marcel, Scheler, Straus, and Schilder-have highlighted a phenomenology of the body that recognizes embodi- ment as the existential condition in which cultureand self are grounded(Corin 1990; Csordas 1990; Devisch and Gailly 1985; Frank 1986; Jackson 1989; Munn 1986; Ots 1991, in press; Pandolfi 1990). They tend to takethe "lived body" as a methodologicalstartingpoint ratherthanconsiderthe body as an object of study. Fromthe secondof these two perspectives, thecontrastbetweenembodiment and textuality comes into focus acrossthe various topics examined by an anthro- pology of the body. For example, the influential synthesisby Scheper-Hughes and Lock (1987) clearlylays out the analytical terrainclaimed by an anthropology of the body. These authorsrework Douglas's (1973) "two bodies" into three-the individual body, thesocial body, andthe bodypolitic.They understandthesebodies as interrelated analytic domainsmediated by emotion.To pose the problem of the body in terms of the relation between embodimentand textuality invites us to review thisfield with an eye to the correspondingmethodological tensionbetween phenomenological andsemiotic approaches. This methodological tensiontraverses all threebodies sketched by Scheper-Hughes andLock. That is, each of the three can be understoodeither from the semiotic/textual standpoint of the body as representation or from the phenomenological/embodimentstandpoint of the body as being-in-the-world.

(1986) to espouse an "anthropology of

However, the contemporaryanthropological and interdisciplinary literature

remainsunbalancedin this respect. A strongrepresentationalist biasis

notably in the predominance of Foucauldiantextual metaphors, such as thatsocial reality is "inscribedin the body," andthatour analyses areforms of "reading the body." Even Jackson's (1989) predominantlyphenomenological formulationis cast in termsof the body as a functionof knowledge and thought, two termswith strongrepresentationalist connotation.Yet Jacksonwas perhaps the first to point out the shortcomings of representationalism in the anthropology of the body, arguing thatthe "subjugation of the bodily to thesemanticis empirically untenable" (1989:122). I wouldendorsethe critique that meaning cannotbe reducedto a sign,




a strategy thatreinforcesa Cartesian preeminence of mindover a body understood as "inert,passive, andstatic" (1989:124). This critique shouldnot be construedas

negating the study of signs with respect to the body, but as making a place for a complementaryappreciation of embodimentand being in the world alongside textuality and representation. That these are complementary and not mutually exclusive standpoints is demonstratedin the rapprochement betweensemioticsand phenomenology in severalrecentworkson the body (Csordas1993; Good 1992; Hanks 1990; Munn 1986; Ots 1991). Nevertheless, because for anthropology embodimentis not yet developedenough to be trulycomplementary to an already mature textuality(Hanks1989), thisarticlehasthelimitedaimof taking ameasured step toward filling out embodimentas a methodological field. Reconsidering the workof Merleau-Ponty(1962, 1964) andBourdieu (1977, 1984) suggestsbringing intothe foreground thenotionsof perception and practice. Briefly, whereas studies of perception in anthropology and psychology are, in effect, studiesof perceptualcategories and classifications,Merleau-Ponty focused

on the

the bodyand,through reflective thinking, endsin objects. Onthelevel of perception

thereis not yet a subject-object distinction-we are simply in the world.Merleau-

Ponty proposed that analysisbegin with the pre-objective actof perception rather thanwith already constituted objects. He recognized that perception was always embedded in a cultural world, such that the pre-objective in no way implies a "pre-cultural."At the same time, he acknowledged that his own work did not elaboratethe steps between perception and explicit culturalandhistorical analysis


Precisely at this point where Merleau-Ponty left off, it is valuableto reintro- duce Bourdieu's (1977, 1984) emphasis on the socially informed body as the

life. Bourdieu'sconcern with the body, worked out in the practice, is parallel and compatible with Merleau-Ponty's

ground of collective empirical domain of

analysis in the domainof perception. To conjoin Bourdieu's understanding of the "habitus"as an unself-consciousorchestrationof practices with Merleau-Ponty's notion of the "pre-objective"suggests thatembodimentneed not be restrictedto the personal or dyadicmicro-analysiscustomarily associatedwith phenomenology, butis relevantas well to social collectivities. Defining thedialecticbetween perceptual consciousness andcollective prac- tice is one way to elaborateembodimentas a methodological field (Csordas1990). It is withinthis dialecticthatwe move from the understanding of perception as a bodily process to a notionof somaticmodes of attentionthatcan be identifiedin a variety of cultural practices. Our elaborationof this constructwill provide the grounds for a reflectionon the essential ambiguity of our own analyticconcepts, as well as on the conceptual statusof "indeterminacy" in the paradigm of embodi- ment andin contemporaryethnography.

constitutionof perceptualobjects. For Merleau-Ponty,perceptionbegan in


A Working Definition

Alfred Schutz, the premiermethodologist of phenomenological social science, understoodattentionto lie in the

full alertnessand the sharpness of apperception connectedwith


acteristicsanduses. [1970:316]

consciously turning


combinedwith furtherconsiderationsand anticipations of its char-

Merleau-Ponty goes further, pointing out that attention actually brings the object into being for perceptual consciousness:


a new articulationof them

horizons, they constitutein reality new

neitheran associationof

of its objects, but the active constitutionof a new object which makes explicit and

thoughtalready in control



attentionis not merely furtherto elucidate


pre-existing data, it is to bring about

by taking them as figures. They are performedonly as

in thetotalworld


nor the returnto itself of

articulatewhatwas untilthen presented as no morethananindeterminatehorizon.


Whatis theroleof attentionin theconstitutionof subjectivity and intersubjectivity as bodily phenomena?If, as Schutz says, attentionis a conscious turning toward an object, this "turning toward"wouldseemto imply more bodily and multisensory engagement thanwe usually allow for in psychological definitionsof attention. If, as Merleau-Pontysays, attentionconstitutes objects out of an indeterminatehori- zon, the experience of ourown bodiesandthoseof othersmustlie somewhere along

thathorizon.I suggest thatwhereit lies is precisely at the existentiallyambiguous point at whichthe act of constitutionandthe object thatis constitutedmeet-the

we attend

to and objectify ourbodiesshouldhold a particular interest.Thesearethe processes

to which we allude with the termsomatic modes of attention.Somaticmodes of

attentionare culturally elaborated ways of attending to and with one's body

surroundings thatincludethe embodied presence of others. Because attention implies both sensory engagement andan object, we must emphasize thatour working definitionrefersbothto attending "with"and attending "to"the body. To a certainextentit mustbe both.To attendto a bodily sensation is notto attendto the body as anisolated object, butto attendto the body's situation in the world.The sensation engages something in the world becausethe body is "alwaysalready in the world."Attentionto a bodily sensationcan thusbecome a modeof attending to the intersubjective milieuthat give risetothatsensation.Thus, one is paying attentionwithone's body. Attending withone's eyes is reallypart of this same phenomenon, but we less often conceptualize visual attention as a "turning toward"thanas a disembodied, beam-like "gaze." We tendto thinkof it as a cognitive functionratherthanas a bodily engagement. A notion of somatic mode of attentionbroadensthe field in which we can look for phenomena of

phenomenological "horizon"itself. If thatis so, then processes in which




perception and attention, and suggests that attending to one's body can tell us something aboutthe worldandotherswho surroundus. Becausewe arenotisolated subjectivitiestrapped withinour bodies, butshare an intersubjective milieu with others, we mustalso specify thata somaticmode of attentionmeans not only attentionto and with one's own body, but includes attentionto thebodiesof others.Ourconcernis theculturalelaborationof sensory engagement, not preoccupation with one's own body as an isolated phenomenon. Thus, we must include, for example, theculturalelaborationof anerotic sensibility that accompanies attentionto attractivenessand the elaborationof interactive, moral, and aestheticsensibilities surrounding attentionto "fatness."These exam- ples of attentionto the bodilyform of othersalso include attending withone's own body-there is certainly a visceralelement of erotic attention, and therecan be a

visceral component to attending to other aspects of others' bodily forms. Attending

toothers' bodily movementsis even moreclearcutin playing team sports, and in the uncanny sense of a

In all of these, thereis a somaticmode of attentionto the position andmovement

of others'bodies.

casesof dancing,makinglove, presence over one's shoulder.

It is

a truism that,although our bodies are alwayspresent, we do not always

attendto and with them.Let me reiterate,however, thatthe constructI am trying to elucidateincludes culturally elaborated attentionto and with the body in the immediacy of an intersubjective milieu. Although thereis undoubtedly a cultural component in any act of attentionto one's own or another's body, it would be too imprecise to label any such act as an example of a somaticmode of attention.If

you cut yourfinger while slicing bread,you'll attendto yourfinger in a way that

is moreorless culturally determined (Is it spirituallydangerous? Is it embarrassing?

Must I see a doctor?). When you notice someone who weighs 275 pounds, your reactionis also culturally determined (thatperson looks fat,attractive,strong,ugly, friendly, nurturant). To define somatic modes of attentionin such broadterms

would probablyonly serve to organize a variety of existing literaturesinto an

overbroad category. I suspect, for example, that we could identify such loosely defined somatic modes of attentionassociated with a wide variety of cultural practices and phenomena. Mauss (1950) pointed outthatthereis whatwe are calling

a somaticmodeof attentionassociatedwith the acquisition of any technique of the body, butthatthismode of attentionrecedesinto thehorizononce the technique is mastered.The imaginal rehearsalof bodily movements by athletes is a highly elaboratedsomaticmodeof attention, as is the heightenedsensitivity to muscletone and the appetite for motion associated with health-consciousnessand habitual exercise. The sense of somatic contingency and transcendenceassociated with meditationand mystic stateswould also be withinour purview. Thereare certainly

somatic modes of attentionto basic

menopause, in different cultures. On

associatedwith hypochondria and

bodily processes, such as pregnancy and the pathologicalside, the hyper-vigilance

somatization disorder, andthe various degrees



of vanity or tolerancefor self-mortificationassociatedwith anorexiaand bulimia,

could be said to define particular somaticmodes of attention. It is evident thatsome of these examples suggest more or less spontaneous cultural elaboration, whereasothers suggest modes thatare consciously cultivated

(cf. Shapiro1985). Some emphasizeattending to the body andsome withthe body;

some emphasizeattending to one's own body, some attending to others' bodies, andsome to others'attentionto ourbodies. My point is thatthe ways we attendto andwithour bodies, andeven the possibility of attending, areneither arbitrary nor

biologically determined, butare culturally constituted.Leenhardt's (1979 classic study of the Canaques of New Caledonia described not only a

conceptualizing the body radically distinctfromour own, butthe exclusionof the body per se as an object of consciousness until the people were introduced by missionariesto the objectifiedbody of Christianculture.This suggests thatneither

attending to nor attending with the body can be taken for granted, but must be formulatedas culturally constitutedsomatic modes of attention.I elucidatethis constructwith examples fromthe ethnographic recordin the following discussion.


way of

Somatic Attention and Revelatory Phenomena

The somaticmodeof attentionI will delineatein this sectionis thatof healers

who learnaboutthe problems andemotionalstatesof


for both predominantlyAnglo-American, middle-classCatholicCharismaticheal-

ers andfor PuertoRican spiritist mediums. TheCatholicCharismaticRenewalis a religious movementwithintheRoman CatholicChurch.CatholicCharismaticshave elaboratedPentecostalfaith healing

intoa system that distinguishesamongphysical, emotional,demonic, andancestral

sources of

1983, 1988). A variety of somatic experiences is cultivated in ritual healing

practice, but I shall focus on two types of experiencereportedby healers during theirinteractionwith supplicants. One is called "anointing," the second, "wordof knowledge." Although the physical actof anointingpart of the body, typically theforehead




takento indicateeitherthe general activationof divine power, orthe specifichealing

of an individual.A conventional anthropology of ritual healing would say simply

thatthe healer

of blackbox factoredinto the ritual equation, and perhapsassuming thatsomatic

manifestationsare epiphenomena of trance.The analysis would go no furtherthan informants' reports thatthese epiphenomena "function"as confirmationsof divine

power and healing. Within the paradigm

lead to conclusionsbothaboutthecultural

interestedin a phenomenology thatwill

theirclients throughbodily I describethe phenomenon

to parallel those of the afflicted.

affliction, and addresseseach with specific ritual techniques(Csordas

hands, with holy oil



is a commonformof blessing among charismatics engaged


differentuse of the termis of interestin the present context.

reports an "anointing"by God refersto a somatic experience thatis


into trance,assuming

tranceto be a unitary variableor a kind

of embodiment, in contrast, we are



patterning of bodily experience, and also aboutthe intersubjective constitutionof meaningthrough that experience. The anointing is described by some healersas a generalfeeling of heaviness,

or as a feeling of lightness almost to the point of levitation. The healer may experiencetingling,heat, or anoutflow of "power" similarto an electrical current, ofteninthe hands, butattimesin other parts of the body. Thehandsof somehealers visibly tremble, andIhave felt thisvibrationas a healerlaida handon my shoulder. Among healersthemselves,however, the "authenticity" of this visible vibrationas

a manifestationof divine power is sometimes questioned, in the sense that the

anointingmay be feigned orsensationalized.Ina largegrouphealingservice, when the healermoves fromindividualto individual,laying handson each, the strength of the anointingmayvary witheach supplicant. Onehealerdescribedanemotional

complement of the anointing as a feeling of empathy,sympathy, and compassion.

If this feeling were absentas he came to a particularperson in line for his prayer,

he mightpass over that person,assuming thatGod did not plan to heal her at that


The second Catholic Charismatic phenomenon in this somatic mode of

a "spiritualgift" fromGod

attentionis the"wordof knowledge." Itis understoodas

by means of which healerscome to know facts about supplicantsthrough direct

inspiration, without being told by the afflicted person or anyone else. The wordof knowledge is sometimes experienced as an indeterminate"sense"that something

is the case, but very often occurs in specific sensory modalities.The healer may

see an afflicted body part in the "mind's eye" or hearthe name of a body part or disease with"theheart."Onehealer distinguishedclearly thatwhenthe problem is internal, she typically "sees"the organ, or cancer, appearing as a black mass, but whenthe problem is external, she typically "hears"the word naming the illness or the bodypart, such as armsand legs.

Onehealer reported thata snapping in his earmeanssomeone in the assembly

is undergoing anear healing, andthatintense pain inhis heartmeansaheart healing.

Another reported heat in her elbow on one occasion, interpreting this as a sign of healing of an injury or arthritis.Some healers reportbeing able to detectheadache

orbackacheina supplicantthrough the experience of similar painduring the healing process. Queasiness or confused agitationmay indicatethe activity of evil spirits, and an unexpected sneeze or a yawn may indicatethat a spirit is passing out of the supplicantthrough the healer. One healer commonly reported an experience of

"painbackup" from persons filled withresentmentor previouslyengaged in

activities.The pain would enterher armas she laid handson the person. It would be necessary to remove her armand "shakeout" the pain, while the supplicant would feel nothing. With one handon the supplicant's chest andthe otheron his

or her back, she claims to

can tell if the person is in bondage to Satan, andshe gets an unspecified sensation

as the person is set free. The odor of burningsulphur or of somethingrotting also


feel what's going on insidethe person. For example, she



indicates the presence of evil spirits, while the aromaof flowers indicates the presence of God or the VirginMary. Themost comprehensivephenomenologicalreport was given by ahealerwho distinguished three components of word of knowledge. First was the sense of certainty thatwhathe would say was actuallyhappening. Second was a series of

wordsthatwouldcome to him in abbreviated sequence, suchas "heart



assembly, muchas one wouldreadfroma teleprompter,except thathe heardrather

thanreadthem. Finally, at the same time

the part of his body corresponding to the afflicted part of the personbeing healed.

I will now turnto what I take to be essentially the same somatic mode of attentionin a different healingtradition, PuertoRican espiritismo(Harwood1977). Two main culturaldifferences distinguish somatic attentionin espiritismo and Charismatic healing.First, whereasfor CatholicCharismatics anointings aredirect experiences of divine power and words of knowledge are divinely empowered direct experiences of the supplicant'sdistress, for espiritistas, the corresponding experiences arethe workof spirits thatenteror possess thehealer.These areeither good guiding spirits, called guias, or bad, distress-causingspirits, called causas. The spirits dominate the healing process in that they are essential not only to diagnosis butalso to treatment; and hence, the somatic experiences attendedto are evenmore prominent than among CatholicCharismatics. Specific spiritsmay have distinctand recognizablevoices, odor, or impact on the healer's body. However, the spirits themselves aremore often seen andheard amongspiritists than among Charismatics, and spiritist healers can distinguish between good guias and bad causas.

The second important culturaldifferenceis with respect to conceptions of the body that go well beyond ritual healing. The ability to see spirits from in back of the eyes (ojo oculto) may be associatedwith the interpersonal salienceof the eyes and the glance also found in the evil eye (ojo malo). The experience of a spirit enteringthrough the stomach may be associatedwith thecultural emphasis on that organ not only as a seat of emotion, but also as an expressiveorgan with its own mouth (boca del estomago). The experience of spirits as fluidos coursingthrough the body may be associatedwith a humoral conception of how the body works. Although I would not rule out any of these experiences for Anglo-American charismatics, it is doubtfulthat they wouldbe cultivatedwithintheirsomaticmode

of attention.

Despite these differences, the experiencesreportedby the two types of healer are notablysimilar,althoughespiritistacategoriesdescribing these experiences are even more explicit in distinguishing sensory modalities than the Charismatic anointings and words of knowledge. Based on writingsof, and discussions with,

leading researcherson

appear to fall intofour categories:seeing

of a lady

years old

seatedin the last pew

He would call these words out to the

he wouldfeel a fingerpressingsoftly on


Harwood, and Garrison), the phenomena the spirits(videncias),hearing the spirits



speak(audiciones),sensing immediately whatis on the client's mind (inspiracio- nes), and feeling the pain anddistresscausedin theclient by spirits(plasmaciones). Mostof thedifferenceslie in visual experiences, sinceCharismatics typically see situationsor images of problems, ratherthan problemsobjectified as spirits. Perhaps most similarare the proprioceptiveexperiences, or plasmaciones. Koss (1988) cites use of the verb plasmar to refer to mediums' molding or forming clients' pain or emotional distress within their own bodies. Harwood (personal communication) adds thatplasmaciones are transmitted through the medium of plasma, whichin spiritist doctrineis a spiritual substance linkingpersons to spirits andto one another.

According to Harwood, the plasmaciones experienced by healers might include pain,tingling,vibration, or a feeling of elationif possessedby a guia spirit. Although Garrison (personalcommunication) does not recognize theterm plasma- ciones, she acknowledges sensaciones that might include headache,stomachache, ortension pickedup fromtheclient.Koss (1988, 1992)presents themostelaborate inventory,includingfeeling of electrical charge, acceleratedheart rate,pain and othersymptomsfelt atthe correspondingbodysite, cool air blowing acrosstheskin starting fromthe head, tingling,energyentering the stomachand leaving thehead or moving like a snake in the body,fluidos like sexual energy, buzzing sounds, body lightness, rapid thinking, feelings of contentmentand relaxation in the

presence of a good spirit,feelings of nervousness,fatigue, or fear in the

of a bad spirit.Again, the principal differences appear to beassociatedwiththerole

of spirits and with particularauditory,olfactory, or proprioceptiveexperiences associatedwith particularguias. Theelaborationof interactionwith negativespirits augments the espiritista repertoire of negative experiences and compulsions to speak or hear involuntarily.Among Catholic Charismatics, evil spirits are often ritually "bound"to prevent theirmanifestationin the formof shrieking,writhing,

vomiting, or challenging the proceedings. The acquiescence of

practice of binding is doubtlessdue in part to a class habitus (Bourdieu1977) that encourages behavioralmoderation among middle-classCharismatics.Protestant Pentecostals,typically of more working-classprovenance, tend to require somaticmanifestationas a sign of a demon's departure fromits host. In addition, evil spirits in theCharismatic system aremanifest only in the afflicted, not through thehealer.



to this


Related Phenomena in Nonreligious Healing

The somatic mode of attentionin

both espiritista and CatholicCharismatic

indigenously articulatedin terms of religious revelation.I will now

systems is

briefly examinerelated

religious character.Daniel (1984)

practitioners of Siddha medicine in South

culminateswith physicians making theirown

with thatof their patients. This final stage bearsthe namecama nilai, the stateof

phenomena in two healing systems thatlack such overtly

describes the diagnostic taking of pulses by

Asia as a three-stageprocess that


"confluentand concordant"



equipoise. Only after experiencing the shared pulsations of cama nilai does the Siddha physician truly know the patient's humoraldisorder.In this instance, divinely inspiredspontaneity is replaced by cultivated diagnostic skill, but the somaticmode of attentionremainscharacterized by its referenceto another per- son's suffering.

Daniel's interpretation of Siddha pulse diagnosis alsoraisesa methodological issue, and requires us to returnfor a momentto the domainof semiotic analysis. Adopting the categories of Peirceian semiotics, Danieldescribestheinitialrelation betweenthe physician'spassive fingertips andthe patient'spulse as indexical-in their contact,they indexeachotheras normalorabnormal. Also, theabnormal pulse

of the patient indexeshumoral imbalance, whereasthe normal pulse cian indexes healthy humoralbalance.As the physician's own pulse

becomes confluentwith thatof the patient, the "indexicaldistance"between the signs decreases, untilthe relationship betweenthe two pulses is transformedinto

aniconic one, andthetwo

signs becomeone. According to Daniel, "Atthismoment

of perfecticonicity, the physicianmay be said to have experienced in some sense the suffering as well as the humoralimbalanceof the patient"(1984:120). The semiotic analysis is of value in allowing Daniel to compare Siddhaand similar traditional healing systems with Western biomedicine in terms of the relative power of indexicality or iconicity institutionalizedwithin them (cf. Kir- mayer 1992 and Ots 1991). From the perspective of embodiment,however, the notionof indexicaldistanceis too abstract, andthe semiotic analysis allows only the conclusion that suffering is shared"in some sense." Daniel is forced into a neologism to express his understandingthat, insofaras the process of taking the pulse neutralizesthe divide between patient and physician,objectivity is replaced by "consubjectivity." The problematic of embodimentwould pick up precisely at this point, with a phenomenologicaldescription of "consubjectivity" as charac- teristicof a particular somaticmode of attention.

of the physi- emerges and

A final example of this somaticmode of attentioncomes from contemporary psychotherapy.Typically reported clinical experiences include a stirring in the penis in themale therapist's encounterwith a "hystericalfemale," or a propensity to yawn whenfaced with an obsessive patient. Such phenomena occur spontane-

ously in psychotherapy, as in the religious settings described above, butthe mode of attentionto them is not consistently elaboratedas indicative of something important aboutthe patient or the condition being treated. Only certain schools, suchas experiential,transpersonal, and analyticalpsychology,appearsympathetic to more explicit recognition of these phenomena. Samuels, for example, gives

several examples of countertransferenceas expression in the analyst of something in

includes bodily andbehavioral responses, suchas wearing the sameclothes as

patient,walking into a lamp-post, sensationin the solar plexus,pain in a particular part of the body; affective responses, such as anger, impatience,powerfulness, powerlessness; and fantasy responses, suchas suddendelusional thoughts, mental

a "physical,actual,material, sensual

the patient's psyche" (1985:52).





imagery, or sensory distortions.Most important, he argues thatsuch experiences arecommunicationfrom patients, and against traditionaltheoriesof countertrans-

ferencethat impugn themas pathological reactionsof the therapist. This new example raisesanother methodologicalissue, thatof the subject-ob- ject relationship as it pertains to the interpretive frameworkswe bring to the objects of our analyses. Here I am not referring to our "objective"analysis of subjective phenomena, suchas somaticmodesof attention, butto the way ourown interpretive subjectivity constitutesor objectifies the phenomena of interest.For the present discussion, work on countertransferencefrom analyticalpsychology may appear

to offera valid interpretive framework.How

canthis be, however, when analytical


under the heading of somatic mode of attention?Are we to place words of


equalfooting as phenomena to be interpreted, or can we justify using the last of these as a frameworkfor interpreting the formerthree?

The natureof this problem is illustrated by the following vignette from my fieldwork.The setting was a CatholicCharismatic healing session conducted by a healer who was also a trained psychotherapist, and who made particular use of

"bodywork"techniques. In this session, she

perform the postures of

felt in his body. In the context of ongoing therapeutic attentionto the theme of overdiscipline andexcessive needfor control, it was not surprising thathe observed

thathis fists wereclenchedandhis kneeslocked. However, atthementionof locked knees, my own crossed leg jumped as if it hadbeen tappedby a doctor'shammer in a test of reflexes.

Insofar as my own somatic mode of attentionwas circumscribed by the motivesof ethnography, I didnothesitateto use my own experience as anoccasion fordatacollection.I lateraskedthehealerhow she wouldaccountfor my knee jerk, andif it were possible for a non-believerto experience the divinely inspired word

not be definitively inter-

preted, butthatit could be one of three things: a somatic response caused by God,

a consequence of my sharing some of the same personality issues as the client, or

a naturalresultof

subsumes notions of divine agency, countertransference, and a psychosomatic understanding of empathy. In its postmoder juxtaposition of interpretivepossi- bilities, it poses a challenge of reflexivity for the participantobserver, and in so doing, it argues thatthedomainof interpretivepossibilities is continuousbetween those of observerandthose of observed.

It may be arguedthat,although a category such as countertransference may not be more correct, it may be more valuablefor a comparativeanalysis of such phenomena, andthat comparison itself is the sourceof validity.Nevertheless, this example remindsus that objective analyticcategories become objectivethrough a reflective movement within the process of analysis. I would argue that it is the

is itself the source of precisely the kind of data we wish to analyze

cama nilai, and embodiedcountertransferenceon an

askedthe client, a 37-year-oldman, to

a technique known as "grounding," andto report whathe

of knowledge. She responded thatthe experience could

deep attachmentto another's experience. This "native exegesis"



perspective of embodimentitself thatfacilitatesthis insight. If thesame insight can also be arrivedat through other approaches, I wouldatleast argue thatembodiment offersa way to understandit inmore depth. In anyevent, it is necessary to elaborate

the finding thatthe attempt to definea somaticmodeof

such thatno category is privileged, andall categories arein flux between subjec-

tivity and objectivity.

attentiondecenters analysis

The Flux of Analytical Categories

All the examples we havecalled upon to illustratethenotionof somaticmodes of attentionaredrawnfrom thedomainof healing. If such modes of attentionare

generalphenomena of human consciousness, we would expect that they can be identifiedin otherdomainsas well. For example, Becker (in press) has observed that in Fijian culture the body is not a function of the individual"self" as in Euro-America, but of the community. An ongoing surveillance,monitoring, and commentary on body shape includes the changes that begin when a woman

becomes pregnant.Fijiansregard it as essentialthata

known publicly, lest

tion of food, andthe spoiling of group endeavors.Unrevealed pregnancies can be manifestin the bodilyexperiences of others:illness or weight loss caused by food

cooked by the pregnantwoman; loss of hair caused by cutting it; a lactating

mother'smilk dryingup becauseof

a glance. This phenomenon was fully cultivated

the power of its secrecy resultin boats capsizing, contamina-

womanmakeher pregnancy

as a somaticmodeof attention by one womanwho experienced anitchinherbreast

whenevera memberof her family became pregnant. Such evidence typically led the head of the householdto summonthe family's young women and urge one of themto revealher pregnancy before something untowardoccurred.

An approach to cultural phenomenathrough embodimentshouldalso make

possible the reinterpretation of data already analyzed from other standpoints (Csordas1990). We shouldthennot only be ableto discoverundocumentedsomatic modes of attentionas in the Fijiancase, but also be able to recognize them right underour ethnographic noses in well-documentedsituations.I submit (based on observationsmadewhile my wife andI were expecting the birthof our twins) that such a reinterpretation of couvadeis in order.The coreof the phenomenon is that

an expectant father experiencesbodily sensationsattunedto

those of his pregnant

mate. Couvadehas been understoodin one of two ways in the literature.On the

one hand, it is thought of

"imitates"labor (Broude 1988; Dawson 1929; Munroeet al. 1973). On the other, it is regarded as a medical phenomenon, or "syndrome"(Enoch and Trethowan 1991; Klein 1991; Schodt 1989). Thus, couvadeis eitherexoticizedas a primitive charade, or pathologized as a psychosomatic overidentification.Reconceivedas a somatic mode of attention, it appears instead as a phenomenon of embodied intersubjectivity thatis performatively elaboratedin certainsocieties, while it is either neglected or fearedas abnormalin others.

as a ratherodd custom in which the man"simulates"or



Pending additional empiricaldescriptions of somaticmodes of can provisionally turn to the implications of the constructfor a

embodiment.In outlining the phenomenology of somatic modes of attentionin


invoking any category otherthan "experience" and cast

termsof sensory modalities.In the succeeding section, I showedthatthese modes

of attentioncannotbe subsumed entirely underthe category of religiousexperience,

as countertransfer-

and that, in impinging on more conventional categories such

ence, they pose a challenge of reflexivity. The point I wantto makenow is about the poverty of our anthropologicalcategories for going any furtherin understanding whatit is to attendtoone's body inamodesuchas thatdescribedabove.We operate

with categories of cognition and affect, neitherone of which alone can do justice to these phenomena, andbetweenwhichthereexists a nearlyunbridgeableanalytic gulf. The categories of tranceand alteredstates of consciousness remainvirtual blackboxes, andone colleague's suggestionof"proprioceptive delusion"is no help at all. To suggest that they areformsof "embodied knowledge" is provocative, but doesn't necessarilycapture the intersubjective natureof the phenomena we have described.In his earlyprogrammatic work, Blacking referredto the existence of "sharedsomaticstates"as the basisfor a kindof "bodilyempathy," butofferedno specific examples of anything similarto whatwe have describedabove (1977:10).

I wouldliketo go furtherhereand briefly discuss these phenomena underfour

additional categories, if only

them. These categories are intuition, imagination,perception, and sensation. I

restrictthe discussion in

phenomena describedabove.

this section to the Charismaticand espiritistarevelatory

to emphasize thatwe remain ill-equipped to interpret

attention, we

paradigm of

andCatholicCharismatic healing systems, I rigorously refrainedfrom

the descriptionstrictly in

First, consider an