Embodiment Cluster – Update 2018

In anticipation of the next South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership Cohort Day on 12 November, we at the Embodiment Cluster would like to say a big hello and welcome to the brilliant researchers, both new and not-quite-so-new (!), who make up our vibrant academic community.

The Embodiment Cluster is, at its core, a forum for DTP students to discuss the body and embodiment in a friendly, dynamic, and interdisciplinary environment. Previously, the Cluster has played a major part in the organisation of Fun Palaces with the TRAM (Translation, Representation, Adaptation and Mobility) Cluster, which you can read about on this blog. For the coming year, we are aiming to continue our work by:

  • Holding a Work-in-Progress (WiP) Conference for students interested in any aspect of embodiment in December 2018 – keep your eyes peeled for the forthcoming Call for Papers!
  • Organising museum visits across the South West and beyond
  • Running reading groups
  • Offering students the chance to share their research on this blog

If you’re a SWW DTP student and would like to get involved with any of this, please do follow us on Twitter (@EmbodimentDTP), join our Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/142297049459560/), or email Alex Osborne (ao16170@bristol.ac.uk) to find out more – we’d love to hear from you!



Hybrid Cultures: The full story!

Here’s the development of the ‘Hybrid Cultures’, Elen Caldecott‘s Fun Palace workshop, over the course of the day. Participants heard the story so far, and added their own ‘body’ to the map, letting the story evolve as they did so.


10am: The table was set up with black cylinders and decorations. The map had four islands, with three small communities living on them – the ribbon people, the red-and-yellow people, and the blue people. There was no contact between the different peoples at the start of the story. One island was uninhabited.


10am-11am: The communities grew, following their own traditions, until a bridge was built between two of the islands. The first person to cross the bridge was a red-and-yellow, who adopted a little of the style of the ribbon people, so that they wouldn’t be alarmed by him.


11am: One ribbon person responded enthusiastically to the new arrival, the hybrid culture around the bridge took on an effervescent quality!


11-11.30am: Meanwhile, one of the blue people had seen the red-and-yellow style, and admired it, replicating it in his own fabric.


11.30am: He was mirrored by a red-and-yellow person who admired blue style, but was forced to replicate it in her own fabric too. That was until their mutual admiration opened up a trade network around a port (represented here by the fabric samples). Economic exchange was swiftly followed by artistic exchange. Here we see a storyteller following the trade route.


11.30am: Here’s a view of the storyteller from the blue perspective – will her colour and vibrancy be a threat to the monotone blue way of life?


12pm: Having ships at sea meant one thing for the uninhabited south island – a colony of pirates invaded. They adapted the traditional styles of the communities in a way that seemed to be about intimidation and display.


1pm: A brave mariner was the go-between from the established trading port in the north and the unruly pirates in the south.


1pm: The hybrid on the bridge (remember him?) and a pirate on the south island shared an interest in yellow and green. This gave rise to a spontaneous new culture. A small festival was established to celebrate greens-and-yellows.


2pm: By the afternoon, we had a resolutely conservative group of ribbon people; hybrid and spontaneous cultures around bridges; an egalitarian trade route in the north-east and a raucous colony in the south. One person took action to protect the threatened blue culture, taking it onto the red-and-yellow island, at the junction of the two maritime routes.


2pm: The highest point on the islands was given a hermit – the beginnings of religion?


3pm: With organised trade came wealth, and with wealth came social hierarchy. Here, the red-and-yellow people are given a chief, grown rich on the trade with the blue people.


3.30pm: The conservative ribbon people, with their flourishing religious base were also given a chief. The power balance at the bridge became unstable, leading to our islands’ first war.


4pm: The war between the red-and-yellows and the ribbon people saw them both consolidate their power in their heartlands, leaving the hybrid culture around the bridge to wither.


4.30pm: the final scenes. After a flourishing of contact between the communities with hybridisation and exchange, eventually the emergence of hierarchies and different ideologies caused the limits of territories to become entrenched.

4.30pm. The aftermath. With massive thanks to the Fun Palace organisation, the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership for their support, my fellow PhD students for their enthusiasm and planning, and Colourful Minds for help with the craft idea. And huge thanks to to all the participants for making, and for sharing their own cultural stories with me too.

Guided Meditation Workshop at the SWW DTP Brilliant Bodies Fun Palace Event

In this blog entry, Jacob Lucas, a SWW DTP funded PhD student in Philosophy and Buddhist Studies at the Universities of Exeter and Bristol, discusses his forthcoming workshop at the Brilliant Bodies Fun Palace Event.  Jacob’s guided meditation workshop titled “Imagining Death” will touch on the wider themes of his research project, which investigates the Buddhist belief in rebirth.

Imagining Death: Let’s explore the most mysterious journey you will ever take!

“For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause” (William Shakespeare).

Death is something that will happen to us all but how often do we really take the time to think about it?

More importantly, how often do we take time to think about how it will really affect us?

The idea of death might conjure up morbid images of skeletons and corpses or perhaps just sadness, grief, sickness and funerals.

But these are the ways in which we think about other people’s deaths – what about our own?

At the upcoming Fun Palace Event “Brilliant Bodies” on Saturday 1st of October, my activity will give you the opportunity to go on an inner journey.

We will be using the laboratory of our minds to explore and imagine what it might feel like to die. 

This is a Fun Palace so we won’t be dwelling too much on sickness and decay but will try and imagine death itself.

What will it be like for us when our body is no more? Will we simply disappear? What else might happen? What other possibilities might we experience?

 If you want to explore these questions join me on the 1st October and let’s imagine the greatest journey you’re ever going to take!

Please Note: This journey of guided imagination will not dwell on the physical aspect of death too much but participants may nonetheless find the subject matter disturbing. Younger children and those for whom the subject of death may give rise to intense and difficult emotions should think carefully about taking part.

Mapping Embodied Culture – Elen Caldecott’s Fun Palace Activity

In this blog entry, Elen Caldecott, a SWW DTP funded PhD student studying Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth University discusses how her forthcoming Fun Palace activity relates to the wider concerns of her research project.


Who owns the words in your mouth? And what are you allowed to do with them?

I use fiction to find truths. My methodology is to write a story, see how people react to the story, then wonder what words I might change to alter their response. Like the thought experiments used in Philosophy, I try to turn my question into a fictional situation and see how it plays out.

I began my PhD with a technical question – is it possible to use the Welsh language as a basis for a new English. Can the languages be hybridised in some way, like Esperanto, to be almost-recognisable to both language communities, but also alien to both? I was interested, as a creative writer, in knowing what my tools (words) were capable of.

As the project developed I realised that when two communities sit side-by-side and are forced to interact, frictions appear very easily. Especially if there is a power imbalance between the two. In that case, the side who feels the most vulnerable might try to guard the things that matter to them – it might be traditions, style of dress, rituals, songs or language.

In Wales’ case the language has become culturally charged, a repository of identity. The special position of the language is recognised even by Welsh people who don’t speak it. The situation is different in other Celtic nations where other cultural markers came to dominate – music, dance, religion and so on. In hybridising Welsh with the more powerful English, was I performing an act of treachery?

My work now seeks to answer this question. Who owns a culture? How is it embodied? Who guards it and protects it? But also, what happens when you let a culture hybridise, evolve and change? Does the nation evolve with the culture or is it destroyed in the process?

I hope that my Fun Palace activity will demonstrate some of these questions, and hint at some answers.

I will be asking people to look at a map which has patterned cloaks on it – embodied culture, as it were. Then, I’m inviting people to draw inspiration from a cloak which is already on the map and design their own, setting it beside its neighbour when it’s finished.

We might see a smooth evolution of seamless designs, where the geography of the map creates no borders.

Or maybe we’ll see some designs naturally die out, unmourned.

Or maybe one design will come to dominate, leaving no room for anything else, stifling the other bodies around it.

I hope that participants will reflect on their own place within their own culture. Are they in some way a hybrid? Do they feel secure or challenged in that identity? What might they be willing to lose and what is essential to who they are?

I’d love for the finished work to feed back into my PhD, and I’ll be gathering comments from participants to see what thoughts the experiment prompts in them.

Read more about Elen’s Work here

Read more about our Fun Palace Event ‘Brilliant Bodies’ here

Doll Hacktivist Workshop at the SWW DTP Brilliant Bodies Fun Palace Event


Learn the art of doll make-unders and become a fashion doll hacktivist in a unique workshop that is being led by SWW DTP students as part of the Brilliant Bodies’ Fun Palace event.

Fashion dolls such as Barbie and Bratz are sometimes seen as an extreme embodiment of society’s narrow expectations of consumer culture, beauty and physical form.  Learn how to make under fashion dolls in this workshop that is being run by PhD students of the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership in collaboration with Devon Rescue Dolls. Thoughtful craftivism will be combined with gentle discussion about issues such as gender, sexuality, disability, materials and remaking – all of which will be delivered age-appropriately for those taking part.

The workshop is free to attend (dolls will be supplied). The event will be run twice to allow more people to take part.  Those interested in attending the event are able to reserve a place at the Eventbrite website: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/brilliantbodies-doll-hacktivist-workshop-tickets-27468435831. Please remember to select the appropriate 11am OR 2pm ticket after you click ‘Register’. Open to anyone aged 9+ but children must be supervised. If you are booking for a young person please only book one ticket for them; you do not need a ticket to accompany them.

The Doll Hacktivist workshop is part of Brilliant Bodies, a Fun Palace being run by PhD students of the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership.

Fun Palaces is a free, nationwide celebration of arts and science,

http://funpalaces.co.uk/discover/brilliant-bodies/ @FunPalaces @EmbodimentDTP #BrilliantBodies


Saturday, 1 October 2016 at 11:00 – Add to Calendar


Wills Memorial, Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ – View Map


Fun Palaces

Brilliant Bodies Fun Palace – Saturday 1 October, Bristol

Sat 1st October 2016 10am-5pm
Wills Memorial Building, Queens Rd, Bristol, BS8 1RJ

  • A free, nationwide celebration of Arts and Science
  • The first Fun Palace to be set up and run by students
  • Interactive and fun way  for the general public to engage with university life

South-West based students will share their research on the body with the people of Bristol at their Fun Palace in October.

Our bodies are an essential part of who we all are, but how often do we stop to think about them? The body shapes our emotions. It connect us, and brings us into conflict. It determines the very limits of our lives, and deaths. These ideas and more will be explored by local PhD students from the arts and sciences.

They will present and share their cutting edge research on the body through playful activities, artworks and experiments. Everyone is invited to come prepared to think, and, as importantly, prepared to have fun! From hacktivists giving doll make-unders, to understanding virtual Minecraft bodies; from getting hands-on with medical artefacts to contemplating the end of life, Brilliant Bodies will be a thought-provoking experience for all ages.

Brilliant Bodies is part of Fun Palaces 2016, a free, nationwide celebration of community, bringing people together with arts and sciences, taking place on Saturday 1 October.

Based on a never-built idea from theatre director Joan Littlewood and architect Cedric Price, the first Fun Palaces took place in the UK and worldwide in October 2014, when 138 venues, locations, communities and groups created their own local events. Over 3000 people took part in organising these events, many of them as volunteers, and approximately 40,000 people participated Fun Palaces in person, while tens of thousands more engaged with them online. In 2015 the numbers rose to 142 Fun Palaces across the UK and internationally, with 50,000 people participating.

Fun Palaces create events that bring together arts and sciences – but above all PEOPLE – to work together, create together, have FUN together, and in doing so, build our own communities, from the grassroots up.

“I’m looking forward to showing our research to people in a fun, accessible way – a bit less Ivory Tower and a bit more Alton Towers!”
Elen Caldecott, PhD student, Bath Spa Uni

@FunPalaces | @EmbodimentDTP | #brilliantbodies

For further information please contact:
Emma Geen: emmacgeen@gmail.com
Daniel Carpenter: dc447@exeter.ac.uk