WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO INHABIT A BODY THAT IS IN POTENTIA? PART I
I find this concept of existing in potentia to be quite useful when it comes to making sense of and questioning how our bodies bear the mark of oppressive forces and structures. As a concept, in potentia simply means there is the potential for something to occur. What impact does the daily onslaught of being marked as other than have on our bodies? From eruptions of ridicule to physical violence, to being interpreted as a curiosity, embodying the mark of difference takes its toll on the body. To inhabit and experience a body that is in potentia, specific conditions must be in place for something other than to emerge. A body that is in potentia is breathing air that is thick with possibility. These conditions that I speak of might be materially based, as in, forging a safe physical space for bodies that are othered (too fat, too skinny, gender non conforming, queer, racialized). But it is more than that, for different possibilities to emerge, we must also look not only from the outside in but from the inside out.
I wonder, For the body that is marked - too fat, too skinny, racialized, queer, gender-not-normal body, how much creativity has been thwarted by oppressive social structures, body policing, and the tyranny of conformity? Because that shit stays with you, you know. It creates glitches in your nervous system and manifests itself in a multitude of ways, from a complete dissociation from the body to incoherent rage, to a complete numbing and dulling of the senses, our bodies tell stories.
So to exist in a body that is in potentia is to create the conditions for other, alternative stories to emerge. But as I said, these conditions for change are not always materially visible. We must also consider the energetical impulses of the body, or the lack thereof. Curiosity is dulled by emotions of fear and shame - two emotions that are commonly associated with the depressed or anxious body. We should be asking, How often is curiosity flattened because of oppressive social structures that rob marked bodies of the energy to embrace and cultivate life to its fullest?
It is worth noting that the body is not merely a vehicle to house our thoughts and emotions. Our emotions actively animate our bodies. To emote is to to act. To emote is to move. But when we are fearful of the unknown we seek solace in the familiar. It can be hard to break free from the status quo and to embark on a different trajectory. The bottom line is that oppressive conditions can cleave the body of its desire for self expression, which is part and parcel of the human condition.
My intention in this series on a BODY IN POTENTIA is to dive into this notion of self expression as integral to the Human Condition and to take up and question how oppressive social and forces and structures alter our relationships with our bodies and with others. Two areas I teach in are the movement arts of parkour and ‘movement’ what others tend to label as 'dance.' And these two disciplines happen to be highly gendered with parkour enticing cis boys and dance attracting young cis girls. As a boyish, lanky queer girl with breasts and hips, who grew up marked as different in so, so many ways, I transition between the two worlds daily. My hope is to share with you some of the insights I have gleaned from inhabiting and living in and through these worlds with the hope of cultivating something other than - of stitching together desires, acts and impulses that foster bodies in potentia.