Published On: Sun, Nov 21st, 2021

FAU Researcher and Scholar Partners With Krakow Academy of Fine Arts

Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Body, Mind, and Culture within the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters is an interdisciplinary initiative dedicated to promoting research, programming and teaching of topics concerning the body-mind-culture nexus. Researchers from the center recently partnered with the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts in Poland to launch a new “Center for Somaesthetics and the Arts,” dedicated to joint scholarly research and creative programs. The Krakow Academy of Fine Arts is the oldest art school in Poland, dating back to 1818.

Somaesthetics is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry aimed at promoting and integrating the theoretical, empirical and practical disciplines related to bodily perception, performance and presentation and is the focal point of this new partnership and center.  

The Center for Somaesthetics and the Arts will engage in promoting research and creative artworks that focus on a wide range of issues relating to embodiment in the arts: from issues of aesthetic perception and experience to social and ethical problems whose treatment can find support through the awareness and insights that art can provide. Because of the center’s location in Krakow, close to the Auschwitz concentration camp, one focus of research will concern the somatic roots of systemic racism and ethnic discrimination. These problems that created the horrors of the Holocaust still find troubling expression today, directed at a variety of minority populations.

“We are excited to work collaboratively with our colleagues at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts to enable us to forge strong links to promote scholarly and creative research that connects the humanities and the broad range of sciences to the fine arts,” said Richard Shusterman, Ph.D., the Dorothy F. Schmidt Eminent Scholar in the Humanities and director of the FAU Center for Body, Mind, and Culture within the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, who keynoted the conference on “Body and Public Space,” which opened the new center in Krakow. “The focus on somaesthetics in our newly established partner center in Poland will enable us to cultivate somatic practices that sharpen our perceptions of the world around us in order to provide more caring sensitivity to our environment, social as well as natural. The communicative power of the arts and heightened somatic awareness can provide significant support in developing greater sensitivity to issues of social and climate justice.”

The FAU Center for Body, Mind, and Culture organizes lectures, workshops and conferences and recently hosted a virtual international conference titled, “Bodies of Power: Somaesthetics and Politics.” This conference examined the complex relationships between human bodies and the political institutions which govern them. The conference included presentations from international scholars based in Korea, India, Poland, Spain and Italy, as well as scholars from universities within the United States. Martin Jay, Ph.D., the Ehrman Professor of European History Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, provided the keynote address. This was the 17th international conference hosted by the FAU Center for Body, Mind, and Culture since its founding in 2007.

“Political regimes maintain their power and domination through control of our bodies. They do so not only by explicit acts of violence and internment but also more insidiously by inculcating somatic norms and habits that support the dominating political authorities and ideologies,” said Shusterman. “Our latest conference helped to shed light on the ways that we individuals and groups can find paths of emancipation through more creative, progressive somaesthetic thinking and action. The problems of systemic racism and ethnic discrimination, which are central to the quest for social justice, clearly involve how bodies appear and are judged in the public realm, but very little attention is given to somaesthetic analysis of these issues.”

Shusterman recently presented a lecture on his new book, “Ars Erotica,” which offers a critical, comparative analysis of the erotic theories proposed by the most influential premodern cultural traditions that shaped the contemporary world. Beginning with ancient Greece, whose god of desiring love gave eroticism its name, Shusterman examines the Judaeo-Christian biblical tradition and the classical erotic theories of Chinese, Indian, Islamic and Japanese cultures, before concluding with medieval and Renaissance Europe. His exploration of their errors and insights shows how individuals could improve the quality of life and love today.

“By using the engine of eros to cultivate qualities of sensitivity, grace, skill and self-mastery, we can reimagine a richer, more positive vision of sex education,” Shusterman explained.

The Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letter’s Center for Body, Mind, and Culture deploys the college’s wide-ranging disciplinary perspectives on body, mind, and culture – ranging from philosophy and history, through social, communicational, and literary studies, to the performing and plastic arts. To advance and coordinate research, teaching, and curricular development with respect to body, mind, and culture, the center organizes lectures, workshops and conferences. It also encourages publications and other projects relating to its focus. Through collaborative networks with other colleges at FAU and with other institutions, organizations and researchers concerned with the center’s field of interests, the center is engaged not only in scholarly research and teaching, but also pursues a mission of public outreach serving diverse populations in the South Florida region who have a strong interest in topics essentially relating to the body-mind-culture nexus. These topics include health and illness, fitness and disability, body image in art and culture, sexuality and gender, body politics, fashion, cosmetics, athletics, nutrition, sensorimotor learning and therapies, performance and martial arts, spirituality and meditation, and other body-mind disciplines (Western and non-Western).

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