3. The Search for Rigour in Ethnographies of Bodily Practice

Embodied Reception - South Asian Spiritualities in Contemporary Contexts - Henriette Hanky

Theodora Wildcroft [+-]
The Open University
Theodora Wildcroft is an associate researcher in the Department of Religious Studies at the Open University, founder member of alt-ac.uk, and Co-ordinator for the Centre of Yoga Studies at SOAS, University of London, UK.


The status of researcher as insider or outsider to the communities they study has long been of debate. Within long term ethnographic research into cultural practices, a world of nuance arises in the possible relationships of researcher and researched. We are engaged in complex processes of reconciliation between the under-represented communities whose stories we aim to tell (Shaw 1999, 108; Orsi 2013, 5), and the power an academic position confers to “define reality for others” (Hufford 1999, 298). Besides the issue of positionality, the study of practices of movement and interoception confer distinct embodied skillsets. As a long-term practitioner of yoga who researches contemporary practice, my experience and analysis will be different from non-practicing scholars in the field. In this paper I will build on insights from Dance Studies and Yoga Studies to discuss the methodological frameworks it was necessary to develop for my own doctoral research. I will describe co-practice as a method, notation as an analytic tool, and the concept of methodology as an experimental process, guided by the ideal of research as seva: research as a service freely dedicated to both academic rigour and the untold stories of our communities of practice. From this, I hope to offer space for an open and intellectually invigorating conversation about new methods and frameworks, so that we may break new ground together, in the ethnographic study of bodily practices.

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Wildcroft, Theodora. 3. The Search for Rigour in Ethnographies of Bodily Practice. Embodied Reception - South Asian Spiritualities in Contemporary Contexts. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2024. ISBN 9781800503540. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=44422. Date accessed: 10 Jun 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44422. Oct 2024

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