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Intensified Bodies from the Performing Arts in Portugal

Edited By Gustavo Vicente

The way the body is considered and explored in the performing arts has assumed a growing importance, introducing new questions and cross-cutting perspectives on our understanding of the political, sociological and philosophical relevance of the body today.

This book is a meeting point for these questions, bringing together a set of contributors experienced in examining the body’s presence in live performances. It interweaves several disciplinary outlooks, addressing current theoretical debates on the body relating to the theory of affects, ethics, gender, age, discourse and representation.

Looking at recent practice in Portugal, the volume examines several cases where the body and issues of corporeality raise questions of memory, identity, experience and existence. It opens a rare window onto the distinctive Portuguese post-colonial legacy, which has given rise to an intensified search for new forms of bodily affirmation in the world. In so doing, the book conjures up the transformative power of performing arts today: from body into Being.

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Introduction: The urge to embody the world (Gustavo Vicente)


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Introduction: The urge to embody the world

On the body’s multiplicity

Allow me to begin this introduction with a couple of questions my son recently asked me. There is no one better than a child to bring us – so simply and so honestly – face to face with the most varied paradoxes of human existence. Coming, on separate occasions, out of a four-year-old’s endlessly inquiring mind, these questions took me back to the ancient crossroads we come to when trying to relate the human body to the human being. The first came up when I was looking after a nasty scratch on his leg: ‘Dad, if it’s only our leg that hurts, can we say our whole body hurts?’ He must firstly have been influenced by the number of times he’d heard me say ‘I ache all over!’ but also because, at that moment, the sharp pain in his leg had become the most overwhelming evidence of his corporeal existence. At that precise moment, his leg was, to all intents and purposes, his body, and the (violent) manifestation of his whole being.

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