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Memory in our body: Thick participation and the translation of kinesthetic experience



Anthropologists studying dance, sports, or other kinesthetic cultures may face the difficulty of rendering into analytic discourse those bodily practices consultants do not express verbally. Through thick participation, we may use our bodies to acquire shared cultural knowledge, but then we must translate our somatic experience into words. Encoding kinesthetic details, describing new sensations, and narrating physical training episodes are three different ways of writing about participatory experiences in the field to yield data that can then be compared with observations and life histories of consultant practitioners. Each approach provides distinctive avenues for investigating coherence across multiple bodies inhabiting the same kinesthetic culture, in this case, a Chinese Indonesian self-defense and health movement system known as White Crane Silat. [body, kinesthetic culture, thick participation, ethnography, silat, martial art]