Between Embodied Subjects and Objects: Narrative Somaesthetics


  • Marjorie Jolles


Michel Foucault's ethics of embodiment, focusing upon care of the self, has motivated feminist scholars to pursue promising models of embodied resistance to disciplinary normalization. Cressida Heyes, in particular, has advocated that these projects adopt practices of “somaesthetics,” following a program of body consciousness developed by Richard Shusterman. In exploring Shusterman's somaesthetics proposal, I find that it does not account for the subjective challenges of resisting normalization. Based on narrative theories of subjectivity, the role narrative plays in normalization, and a commitment to developing concrete, feminist practices of embodied ethics, I develop a model of “narrative somaesthetics” based on an updated consciousness-raising model that emphasizes group heterogeneity and narrative conflict that deals with these challenges. Through an analysis of interviews with self-identified femme lesbians and a “female to femme” transition support group featured in the documentary film, FtF: Female to Femme, I argue that narrative somaesthetics enables the analytical, genealogical work required to identify and weaken normalization's constraints on embodied feminist ethics.