What is Somaesthetics?

Somaesthetics, to me, in as close to my own words as possible, is primarily about how I encounter, experience, and create the world in which I discover and learn to willfully move my body. In the USA, as a cisgender, male Black person, I recognize that the willful movement of my body is antithetical to the foundation of the USA. Navigating this opposition is a philosophical proposition; it is corporeal, a proposition of matter; it is an aesthetic proposition by the imposition of color-as-identity onto bodies by those lacking color, and thus, by their own rules, lacking identity; it is somatic as a result of this aesthetic. Understanding that the willful movement of my body is a resistance act, I chose to remain open to ways to move and express from the traditional: daredevil-riding bikes, basketball, football, wrestling, and track, to the not-so-traditional: dance, theatre, choir, tennis, art, writing, and poetry. I understood that resistance is how I navigate through the trauma of white supremacy and my personal trauma. I also make sure I explore white supremacy’s and my personal trauma’s intimate relationship to history because I am history’s byproduct and active creator.

So, what does this all mean to me? It means that Somaesthetics is living a willfully embodied life.


Please Google ‘Richard Shusterman’ and/or ‘Somaesthetics’ for more information that will perhaps put my words, life, and intention into more context. Hopefully, the encounter with Shusterman’s and others’ work will also bring more context to your own words, life, and intention. Shusterman’s formal ‘Somaesthetics’ definition is below. Bold and italics are mine.

“Somaesthetics is an interdisciplinary research product devoted to the critical study and meliorative cultivation of the experience and use of the living body (or soma) as a site of sensory appreciation (aesthesis) and creative self-stylization. An ameliorative discipline of both theory and practice, somaesthetics seeks to enrich not only our discursive knowledge of the body but also our lived somatic experience and performance; it aims to improve the meaning, understanding, efficacy, and beauty of our movements and of the environments to which our actions contribute and from which they also derive their energies and significance. To pursue these aims, somaesthetics is concerned with a wide diversity of knowledge forms, discourses, social practices and institutions, cultural traditions and values, and bodily disciplines that structure (or could improve) such somatic understanding and cultivation, and it is therefore an interdisciplinary project, in which theory and practice are closely connected and reciprocally nourish each other. It is not limited to one theoretical field, academic or professional vocabulary, cultural ideology, or particular set of bodily disciplines. Rather it aims to provide an overarching theoretical structure and a set of basic and versatile conceptual tools to enable a more fruitful interaction and integration of the very diverse forms of somatic knowledge currently being practiced and pursued.” (Shusterman 3)

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