Modeling a disability culture perspective on performance practice toward socially just futures
In Eco Soma, Petra Kuppers asks readers to be alert to their own embodied responses to art practice and to pay attention to themselves as active participants in a shared sociocultural world. Reading contemporary performance encounters and artful engagements, this book models a disability culture sensitivity to living in a shared world, oriented toward more socially just futures.
Eco soma methods mix and merge realities on the edges of lived experience and site-specific performance. Kuppers invites us to become moths, sprout gills, listen to our heart’s drum, and take starships into crip time. And fantasy is central to these engagements: feeling/sensing monsters, catastrophes, golden lines, heartbeats, injured sharks, dotted salamanders, kissing mammoths, and more. Kuppers illuminates ecopoetic disability culture perspectives, contending that disabled people and their co-conspirators make art to live in a changing world, in contact with feminist, queer, trans, racialized, and Indigenous art projects. By offering new ways to think, frame, and feel “environments,” Kuppers focuses on art-based methods of envisioning change and argues that disability can offer imaginative ways toward living well and with agency in change, unrest, and challenge.
Traditional somatics teach us how to fine-tune our introspective senses and to open up the world of our own bodies, while eco soma methods extend that attention toward the creative possibilities of the reach between self, others, and the land. Eco Soma proposes an art/life method of sensory tuning to the inside and the outside simultaneously, a method that allows for a wider opening toward ethical cohabitation with human and more-than-human others.
Preface: From Ecosomatics to Eco Soma
1. Social Somatics: Tentacular Methods on the Horizon
2. Edges of Water and Land: Indigenous/Settler Eco Soma Collaborations
3. Un/Bounding: Writing Water Worlds
4. Crip Time, Rhythms, and Slow Rays: Speculative Embodiment
Petra Kuppers is a community performance artist and disability culture activist. She is professor of English and women’s and gender studies at the University of Michigan and serves on the faculty of the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College. Her most recent books include Theatre and Disability and Studying Disability Arts and Culture: An Introduction.
"Petra Kuppers breathes us through connections between embodiment and the earth, weaving queer studies and disability studies into self-guided explorations. Her imagistic text evokes dancing—the pull of gravity and the shifting perspectives of bodies in flow. She moves, she writes, we respond to her autobiographical narratives of environmental spaces and social places."—Anita Gonzalez, Georgetown University (cofounder of Georgetown University’s Racial Justice Institute)
"There is absolutely nothing like Eco Soma in any field. Petra Kuppers provides a much-needed model for what interdisciplinary arts-based research can be, and her work is always put into the context of the lived reality of minoritized communities. She shows us how to write about bodies as she does—unflinchingly, while maintaining respect and dignity."—Carrie Sandahl, director, Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities, University of Illinois at Chicago
"Petra Kuppers’s grounded and reflective investigation encourages generative dialogue within and beyond disability performance studies. Sharing many vivid examples drawn from diverse community scales and sites, her eco soma method both illuminates and prompts creative reimaginings of relations between self, land, other humans, and more-than-humans. Answering the urgent call for multidisciplinary work to address climate catastrophe, she reveals the profound power of art-based methods to engage the body, forge connection, and enact change."—Kirsty Johnston, University of British Columbia (located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) people)
"Kuppers's spectral disability approach makes this book an ideal companion for revising older canons and theories, through embodied encounters with activist community performance... The labour of reading this layered and performative text generates new research trajectories through realms of sense, affect, and relation."—Research in Drama Education
"Kuppers animates the concepts of disability culture with unexplored ways of witnessing performances through uncertain being and identifying. The fundamental questions Kuppers gently invites the readers to explore about their own encounters and identifications with the human, nonhuman and fantastic worlds are especially important for a world grappling with the continued realities of a global pandemic, of reassessing one’s place and purpose, privileges and uncertainties."—Synapsis
"Engaging with the intersection of the self and the environment in the wide array of well-chosen performances it analyses, Petra Kuppers’s Eco Soma substantially invites a rethinking of material enmeshments embodied in the self that is marked by various agencies—be they geographical, historical, or cultural."—Ecocene
"Relevant and grounding."—Wordgathering
"The text models a form of inquiry, inviting the reader to take a journey through the author’s collection of embodied performance witnessing and become aware of how one encounters the world through the discovery of involved witnessing."—Synapsis Journal
"Eco Soma reads like a historical recipe for imagined futures, one that invites you to add a pinch of your favorite spice to make it smell of home and taste like possibility."—Research in Arts and Education
"Kuppers’s book puts forward appropriate ways for diverse bodyminds to access the spaciousness as well as the peacefulness of being with nature, subsequently offering revolutionary ways of thinking about complex embodiment and issues of belonging and accessibility in cultural work."—Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies
"Petra Kuppers moves in a refreshing worldscape of academic writing. In the introduction to Eco Soma, I am invited into her private space, her own study, her nest on the ground. From here, she takes me by the hand and guides me through stories and reflections from her personal and artistic life and practice as an academic, mover, facilitator and performance witness."—Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices