Dancing bodies: Moving beyond Marxian views of human activity relations and consciousness

Human action has generally appeared to the sociologist as instrumental action, movement conceptualized and valued in terms of its utility, with the actor defined in terms of agency within rationalized social systems . Dance provides a way of seeing that conditions for human existence cannot be reduced to socio-economic relations and forms. Drawing on my ethnographic study of a dance improvisation group, I explore some of the ways in which innovative action resists the productive and textual relations that turn bodies into objects of social control in the capitalist world-order, and creates relations that enable ‘free’ action and liberated subjectivities. Innovations disrupt the pre-existing frames of reference, physical and linguistic, that position the subject in the world of work, and establish an unlimited and undetermined time-space for experiencing ‘something new’. In this case the something new is an opportunity to create oneself anew through choices that are made moving ‘free’ from the constraints of practical activity. Within the intersubjective life-world established through innovative action a space is created for individuation and empowerment. Although these conditions for existence are episodically produced and contingent, they begin and end with the dancing, the relations are self-affirming rather than self-alienating. Dance improvisation experience provides a sociological context for presenting human activity as a contested category in sociological theory, and it raises some important questions about what it means to be human in the world
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DOI 10.1111/1468-5914.00093
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