null Studia Generalia - The Body As Spacesuit - Exploring the affects entangled with the experience of ‘Being Present'

CERADA – Studia Generalia Autumn 2019

The Body As Spacesuit - Exploring the affects entangled with the experience of ‘Being Present’
Ilmari Kortelainen, University of the Arts Helsinki

When: Thu 28th November, 16:00-18:00
Where: Haapaniemenkatu 6, K-535 (lift C, 5th floor)


This Studia Generalia Lecture explores the experience of ‘being present’ and its multiplicity. I investigate ‘being present’ at the crossroads of subjective and social corporealities. Previously I have suggested, together with Steven Stanley, that the meditative practice is put together using diverse and potentially contradictory cultural resources (Kortelainen 2019; Stanley-Kortelainen 2019, Routledge). For example, the awareness of body breathing can include aspects that are spiritual and secular, organic and technological, human and non-human, governing and liberating. In this lecture, ‘social’ refers to the minimal affective and semantic meaning-making that is entangled with ‘being present’. The focus now is not only on mindfulness, but also other meditative practices investigated through phenomenology and affect theory. I will introduce phenomenologically-inspired practices to ask whether social meaning-making alters the perception of ‘pure experience’ or not. Practices are suggested for the audience during the lecture but are voluntary.

In modern Western psychological research on Buddhist meditation, mindfulness has been defined as ‘paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally’. I suggest an alternative affect studies-based research of ‘being present’, thus abandoning the standard definition of mindfulness. This perspective is inspired by case study, participant observations and interviews conducted from 2015-2018. I investigate and test the dialogue between depriving and expanding the senses in contact with surroundings around meditative subjects. Thus, the concept of The body as a space suit is here referring to subtle moments when the assumed ‘pure experience of presence’ becomes socially suited with affects or semantic meaning-making. Like an astronaut in space, the practitioner of awareness learns again - in a new cultural light – the most primitive actions of walking, picking objects, or directing consciousness.



Ilmari Kortelainen works as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arts Helsinki’s Center for Educational Research and Academic Development in the Arts (CERADA). Ilmari’s research and practice has focused on body-awareness in meditation, somatics and in social affects of the body. He approaches these through body-phenomenology and affect theory. Kortelainen is the co-editor of the article “Assembling mindful bodies: mindfulness as a universal ‘laboratory of practice’” (Routledge 2019) with Steven Stanley and, for example, the books Mindfulness ja tieteet (Tampere University Press 2014) and Ruumiillisuus työelämässä (Vastapaino 2016). Ilmari is a practitioner of bodily practices, such as Yi quan, Zen-Buddhism as well as somatics.


Some implications and hypotheses on why we should investigate this: 1) The literature of social theory of self-help has a gap in accurate knowledge regarding how the lived body works as part of the bodily practices of meditation, New Spiritualities or somatics. 2) At the same time, both the secular and spiritual discourses on ‘being present’ simplify and ‘universalize’ the social body experiences. This creates stereotypes of gender, class, sexuality, age, bodily being etc. social orientations within many body traditions. The approach that investigates assemblages of presence suggests more variations and understandings for the conceptions of presence. Present experience is seen through each social context and individual.

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