Each action, each thought is accompanied by one’s own breathing. It is one’s own breath that keeps us alive and it is one’s own breathing that leaves at the moment of death. Not until recently, it was uncommon to talk about breathing as a shared act, as a relational moment that is created with someone else. Yet, Luce Irigaray’s work calls for the cultivation of breathing to enable our ethical coexistence with the other. We also find this ethical dimension of breathing in an 8th century Indian work of Sāṃkhyan philosophy, the Yuktidīpikā, which relates one of the main functions of the vital breath to the act of sharing. This presentation takes us through an exploration of a philosophy of breathing that can emerge inspired by the work of Luce Irigaray and a close reading of some Indian philosophical sources. Ana Laura Funes M. Eastern Connecticut State University
Breathing is critical to life. It is a precious gift that restores balance and peace of mind in life. Paying attention to breathing puts humans at the centre of every experience, provides insight into the body thoughts and emotions, and gives one a say in how one responds as life unfolds. People discuss breathing in plain language and in metaphors. My presentation will be in the form of a film and oral presentation. This will feature the different thoughts that people have around breathing and the facts of breathing. There will be an exploration of conceptions and socio-cultural issues that people in Malawi have regarding breathing. For instance, there is a misconception that inhaling steam is an effective treatment against coronavirus. Some people think that steam vapour disintegrates and kills the virus. On the contrary, there are scientific thoughts that if that steam vapour gets inside the body in an attempt to kill the virus, the lungs would also be irreparably damaged. There are also claims that steam therapy with neem can prevent COVID-19. The presentation will capture some of the ways in which people breathe such as shallow and deep breathing. It will also explore thoughts that people who have had breathing problems, especially in life threatening diseases, view breathing and life. Understanding the conception of breathing is crucial in interventions aimed at responding to diseases that affect breathing in that construction of faulty mental models can be prevented in a timely manner. There will be lifesaving information about breathing to people, empowering individuals to make better informed health decisions. This transports us to the heart of local communities, which hold the power to help bring life-saving interventions to breathing especially in this era of Covid-19, ultimately, achieve a healthy nation. This will not just bring science to life, but also offer relevant information to a mass audience threatened by Covid-19 and other respiratory diseases. By making the film and discussions personal, practical and memorable, audiences will retain critical health information in a context that reflects Malawian life and values.
This essay is based on an ongoing ethnographic fieldwork project conducted at a private ambulance service in Johannseburg, South Africa. I reflect here on a few of my experiences conducting research with medics at “Afrimed” during the Covid-19 pandemic, in an attempt to make sense of how pre-hospital emergency medical care providers at this organisation relate to and navigate the danger posed by potentially contaminated breath. I explore the ways in which prehospital emergency medical care providers have reacted and adapted to the unfamiliar materialities of care and modes of behaviour brought about by efforts to contain the novel coronavirus. In doing so, I think with the notion that examining the changes brought about by Covid-19 might reveal as much about the old normal as it reveals of the new; that the pandemic provides unique insight into the daily work of prehospital emergency medical care as it happens under more “normal” circumstances.
This paper explores the lived experience of autistic children who attend boxing classes in the inner city of Johannesburg. Using participant observation as my primary methodology, I spent a year observing a range of children, aged 10 to 21 years, to understand their sensory experience of their world. Many of the children presented as sensorially ‘sensitive’ or conversely ‘seeking’ in the challenging boxing gym environment. There was a distinct ritual that the children engaged in from greetings and preparation, to the classes themselves and then to their final reintegration back into their school classes. Throughout this process, I observed how the children consciously or unconsciously engaged with or disengaged from their world due to challenges with their internal and external sensory perception, discrimination, processing and modulation. Many displayed distinct challenges with integrating their sensory experience, this was particularly evident when observing their respiratory system and the conscious effort it took for them to breathe. Their sensory difficulties often impacted negatively on their ability to participate positively with their world. Challenges with bodily boundaries, feelings of disconnection and even trauma were experienced at a physical, intellectual, emotional, and social level. However, the boxing classes also provided them with a unique environment that enabled them to reconnect with their bodies, engage their parasympathetic nervous systems and ultimately to breathe easier.
This paper considers air in the coastal Angolan city of Lobito. It explores how scents, air quality and the ability of individuals to control their bodily exposure and interactions with air are important elements of class positioning and interaction. Through ethnographic analysis of the three domains of transportation, work, and exercise the paper draws attention to the ways in which the invisible ‘surrounds’ of individuals are perceived and interpreted, and the power of these interpretations to facilitate or at times block interactions with power and influence. Most importantly, it argues that a perfumed body is critical if one wants to be successful in what is locally referred to as the ‘trafficking of influence’ , and argues that a mastery of olfactory symbolism is a prized skill when it comes to class mobility and aspiration.
In this paper, I explore senses, pleasure and intimacies in the lives of amaXhosa men and boys living in a rural and peri-urban context. The paper builds on a developing corpus of works from Black Boyhood Studies. This work has been characterised by the murders of Black boys, their adultification, and their literal inability to “breathe” in white supremacist America. I expand on this work in the South African context with my research amaXhosa men and boys by looking at the experiences of Black boys in SA which have many shared similarities to the US contexts (e.g. the recent murder of Nathaniel Julius as well as Enock Mpiazi’s death earlier in the year among others). While not downplaying the ways in which Black boys are murdered physically, spiritually or structurally, I explore through my research the ways in which even under such conditions, Black boys, “breathe” (and create “life”) for themselves. I do this through an exploration of issues of pleasure, intimacy and the sensual lives of Black boys, and amaXhosa boys specifically, even in conditions where they cannot “breathe” and are variously constrained from living lives of optimal well-being.
This contribution combines a concise theoretical paper with some workshop activities for participants, exploring the breath’s flow, as well as breaks and pauses in the breath and the role of waiting, listening and the space of no breathing. Considering the habitual inertia of our everyday breathing, and the gentle interventions and playfulness that can constitute pranayama techniques from the field of yoga practisting, this paper proposes some frameworks for thinking about breathing in terms of temporality, intentionality and the falling away of known selves and anticipatory (habitual) ‘futures’ in favour of the breath’s responsiveness to open unknowns, the renewal of pausing, and the cultivation of expansiveness and attunement to desire in a steadied field.
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