Tag Archives: embodiment

The Pursuit of Excellence: The Hacked Barbie

Images of Barbie dolls that have been manipulated and changed.

Source: FManfredi

PAR network member Federica Manfredi shares The Hacked Barbie.

This post is based on the project ‘EXCEL – The Pursuit of Excellence. Biotechnologies, enhancement and body capital in Portugal’, founded by the Foundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (PTDC/SOC-ANT/30572/2017) at the Instituto de Ciências Sociais – Universidade de Lisboa with the PI Chiara Pussetti.

“La Barbie hackerata” [The Hacked Barbie] is a workshop series and a dissemination activity from the project “Excel – The Pursuit of Excellence” (www.excelproject.eu) that investigates non-therapeutic and long terms body interventions aiming to enhance the social performativity in the Portuguese society.

Research shows that cosmetic and body practices are connected with pressures and logics of excellences following hegemonic and post-colonial models of beauty, based on discriminations of gender, age, sexual orientation, the color of the skin or the shape of the eyes.

The Hacked Barbie has been organized for the first time at the World Anthropology Day 2021 as methodological experiment to interrogate participants about body’s perceptions, its modifications and body-performances in daily life. The goal was to stimulate an anthropological gaze on daily practices directed to bodies, inviting participants to re-created their corporeality on a doll in a guided-process: which body-interventions can make the Barbie, a symbol of gendered perfection, more similar to me? In other words, how do I manipulate and construct my self through my body? What models and social pressures guide my choices, mould the relationship with my body and intervene in my bodily social performance?

From the first workshop, other 5 editions collected over 63 voices of participants from Italy, Portugal, Germany, United Kingdom and Brazil, during online and in-person meetings. We discussed cosmetic surgery, tattoos, anti-aging treatments, epilation, clothing choices and diet regimes under the entanglement of social excellence and personal well-being. Working sessions revealed gendered, aged, political, cultural and hide meanings related to body interventions, as well as fragilities and emotional negotiations with perceived social pressures on how to properly perform through the body.

Recent Covid-experiences crossed childhood episodes in participants’ narrations: through our works on the metaphorical plastic-flesh, the dialogue focused on disparities for the access of body treatments, gender discriminations and the pressures we experienced as teenagers, women, workers and members of a society supposed to pursuit idealistic colonial and hierarchical models of beauty, perfection and excellence.

For more information check out the following links:

The Pursuit of Excellence
Excel YouTube channel
Excel Facebook page



Federica Manfredi is a doctoral researcher in Medical Anthropology at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon. She explores contemporary extreme body interventions, especially body suspensions, with co-participated and experimental methodologies that allow to go beyond a logo-centric logic of communication. She is interested in pain, biohacking, tattoos and altered state of consciousness, explored through practice-based qualitative methodologies.



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Ageism and the mature professional dancer

Image of a dancer wearing red pointe shoes in red dust. Photograph taken whilst filming in the outback of SW Queensland.

Source: SYork-Price

In her “Ageism and the mature professional dancer” research PAR network member Dr Sonia York-Pryce, a mature professional dancer herself, investigated the role of professional dancers who extend beyond the industry expectations of acceptable age and analysed the contribution that they are making to current dialogues relating to ageism within Western dance culture. Sonia collaborated with mature professional dancers to produce dance films celebrating their craft and gathered data through a survey and interviews with practitioners working in the field, nationally and internationally.

Sonia says: “Putting an ageing woman’s body on film is a challenging thing to do, considered a negative thing by some, but there is a lack of this in the media, dance, or film so there is a need to make this more mainstream and acceptable. It has prompted many interesting conversations. Much of my practice as research goes on in the ballet studio where I experience ageing physically on a daily basis which gives me great insight into how many of the mature dancers in my research have adapted their practice to accommodate their ageing bodies in order to keep performing.”

For more details about here work, check out her web site.
And here are links to Sonia’s dance films:
Interprète/Inappropriate Behaviour
Utterly (in)appropriate

Dr Sonia York-Pryce studied classical ballet at Elmhurst Ballet School, UK and the Royal Ballet School UK, and contemporary dance at the London School of Contemporary Dance and the Laban Centre, in London, UK. She has enjoyed artist residencies with Red Gate Gallery, Beijing China, photographing Beijing LDTX Contemporary Dance Company; and an interdisciplinary residency with Hospitalfield House, Arbroath Scotland. She has also photographed London Studio Centre’s Images Ballet Company.


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ResDance podcast: Embodied Inquiry

Image of logo of ResDance podcastThe ResDance podcast led by Dr Gemma Harman is dedicated to research methodologies and methods in dance practice. It is intended for educators, students, practitioners and performers and interdisciplinary researchers curious to learn more about dance research in action.

Episode 10 of the podcast relates to Embodied Inquiry. Dr Nicole Brown and Dr Jennifer Leigh offer insight into their shared understandings of embodiment and embodied practice. Through discussion of their research interests and the variety of methods and approaches employed in their own research, they explore what an embodied approach can bring to a research project. Reflections of considerations that need to be acknowledged in research, namely reflective practice, self-acceptance and positionality are also explored. The ideas presented are drawn from principles of embodied inquiry from their recent publication: Embodied Inquiry Research Methods.


Dr Nicole Brown is Associate Professor at UCL Institute of Education and Director of Social Research & Practice and Education Ltd. Nicole’s research interests relate to physical and material representations of experiences, the generation of knowledge and use of metaphors to express what is difficult to express, and more generally, research methods and approaches to explore identity and body work. Her books include Lived Experiences of Ableism in Academia: Strategies for Inclusion in Higher Education, Ableism in Academia: Theorising Experiences of Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses in Higher Education, Embodied Inquiry: Research Methods, and Making the Most of Your Research Journal.
She tweets as @ncjbrown and @AbleismAcademia.

Dr Jennifer Leigh initially trained as a chemist and somatic movement therapist before completing her doctorate in education at the University of Birmingham (2012). She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Higher Education and Academic Practice at the University of Kent (UK) where she co-chairs the Disabled Staff Network. She is Vice Chair (Research) of the International Women in Supramolecular Chemistry (WISC) network and has led on a paper setting out the ethos of calling in the community to enact change, and a forthcoming book. She has edited two books: Ableism in Academia with Nicole Brown, and Conversations on Embodiment. This year she co-authored Embodied Inquiry with Nicole Brown. Her research interests include marginalisation in academia, academic practice, academic development, and ableism as well as phenomenological and creative research methods in higher education and other applications.
Twitter: @drschniff @SupraChem @SupraLab1

The Practice As Research network with its resources is free and always will be, but it does of course incur costs to run and to keep it running. If you use it and benefit, enjoy it and would like to keep it going, please, consider leaving something in the tip jar. Thank you!