The body is just as important as the mind in research

Book Launch Event in Sweden.

In their new book, Embodied Research Methods, Professor Torkild Thanem, from Stockholm University, and Lancaster University Management School’s Professor David Knights encourage researchers not to become pre-occupied with detachment and distance from the subject of their work.

In the book, the authors engage with perspectives and methods that actively utilise the body's capacity to generate knowledge. They show how a more embodied approach not only increases understanding of how the body is as important as the mind in people’s lives, work and interactions, but also how minds are embodied just as our bodies are mindful.

The argument is developed by confronting prevalent methods in qualitative research with embodied perspectives and with examples from the researchers’ own work and lives.

“Take a research interview for example. In addition to being an exchange of questions and answers, this is a situation where gestures, movements and facial expressions prevail,” Professor Knights says.

On ethnographic fieldwork, Professor Thanem adds: “Fieldwork not only requires physical presence, a sharp eye and a keen ear but involves us as researchers in the lives and work of the people we seek to understand. We may understand more about what it is like for research participants to live in a culture and work in an organization if we ‘throw’ ourselves into and participate in at least some of the activities that characterize their everyday lives.”

The authors combine methods, perspectives and concepts with personal experiences, showing how important the body is in the social science research process.

They do not attempt to undermine the role of reason in scholarship, and Professor Knights adds: "On the contrary, human reason is as dependent on bodily emotions as the body is dependent on reason. Without feeling, we do not care enough about the consequences of lazy thinking, unfounded claims and hasty conclusions. Our bodies only become unreasonable when they leave thinking, analysis and evidence behind.”

Although the book will be used in teaching, the authors are positive that it may offer thought-provoking reading for colleagues across social sciences and humanities.

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