Playful bodies, bodies at play
John McManus (British Institute at Ankara)
Shireen Walton (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Allen Abramson (University College London)
Magdalen Old Law Library
Start time:
18 September, 2018 at 13:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel attempts a rethink of the theoretical and methodological potential of bodies by considering their role in the realm of leisure. Topics up for consideration include (but are not limited to): rest, play, relaxation, wellness, inequality, the environment and the (im)materialities of leisure.

Long abstract:

Anthropology likes bodies. In recent years, concepts such as Flexible Bodies (Martin), the Body Multiple (Mol) and the Posthuman Body (Cerqui) have come to the fore, challenging divisions of the social, material, biological and digital. But attention has been disproportionately congregated at the 'serious' end of the spectrum. What about the playful body? The body at rest? The lazy body? Without pursuing these questions, scholarship on the provocations of the 'embodiment turn' risks being limited to issues such as health or ageing.

This panel attempts a rethink by exploring bodies in the realm of leisure. Where does 'work' end and 'play' begin? Can more be made of the tension between leisure as rest and leisure as physical exertion? We welcome any engagement with the ideas of bodies in relation to leisure, play or relaxation. This could include rethinking bodies in relation to extant anthropological debates - on games as 'serious' (Ortner), play as 'deep' (Geertz) - but could also involve pursuing the topic into fresher fields, such as questions of inequality, the environment and other (im)materialities of leisure. How might bodies also take centre stage in ethnographic enquiry? What methodological opportunities are afforded by learning to think with bodies, not just as a site but as a method of research?

There is an untapped theoretical and methodological power in questions of playful dispositions, moments, and movements. An exploration of bodily leisure offers the chance to renew and recreate anthropological thought and practice more broadly.