Among the Songhay of Mali and Niger, who consider the stomach
the seat of personality, learning is understood not in terms of
mental activity but in bodily terms. Songhay bards study history by
"eating the words of the ancestors," and sorcerers learn their art
by ingesting particular substances, by testing their flesh with
knives, by mastering pain and illness.
In Sensuous Scholarship Paul Stoller challenges
contemporary social theorists and cultural critics who-using the
notion of embodiment to critique Eurocentric and phallocentric
predispositions in scholarly thought-consider the body primarily as
a text that can be read and analyzed. Stoller argues that this
attitude is in itself Eurocentric and is particularly inappropriate
for anthropologists, who often work in societies in which the
notion of text, and textual interpretation, is foreign.
Throughout Sensuous Scholarship Stoller argues for the
importance of understanding the "sensuous epistemologies" of many
non-Western societies so that we can better understand the
societies themselves and what their epistemologies have to teach us
about human experience in general.
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