Bodymind

Rainbow colored human torso with rainbow nervous system and rainbow aura

Bodymind: A term used to challenge the idea the body and mind are experienced separately (Descartes). Written in various ways, Bodymind or Body-mind, this usage foregrounds the understanding that experiences of the bodymind are integrated (Price)

Terminology | Critical Disability Studies Collective

Bodymind is a materialist feminist disability studies concept from Margaret Price that refers to the enmeshment of the mind and body, which are typically understood as interacting and connected, yet distinct entities due to the Cartesian dualism of Western philosophy (“The Bodymind Problem and the Possibilities of Pain” 270). The term bodymind insists on the inextricability of mind and body and highlights how processes within our being impact one another in such a way that the notion of a physical versus mental process is difficult, if not impossible to clearly discern in most cases (269). Price argues that bodymind cannot be simply a rhetorical stand-in for the phrase “mind and body”; rather, it must do theoretical work as a disability studies term. Bodymind is an essential concept in chapter 3 in my discussion of hyperempathy, a nonrealist disability that is both mental and physical in origin and manifestation. Bodymind generally, however, is an important and theoretically useful term to use in analyzing speculative fiction as the nonrealist possibilities of human and nonhuman subjects, such as the werewolves discussed in chapter 4, often highlight the imbrication of mind and body, sometimes in extreme or explicitly apparent ways that do not exist in our reality. 

Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction – Dr. Sami Schalk

In addition to the utility of the term bodymind in discussions of speculative fiction, I also use this term because of its theoretical utility in discussions of race and (dis)ability. For example, bodymind is particularly useful in discussing the toll racism takes on people of color. As more research reveals the ways experiences and histories of oppression impact us mentally, physically, and even on a cellular level, the term bodymind can help highlight the relationship of nonphysical experiences of oppression—psychic stress—and overall well-being. While this research is emergent, people of color and women have long challenged their association with pure embodiment and the degradation of the body as unable to produce knowledge through a rejection of the mind/body divide. Bodymind provides, therefore, a politically and theoretically useful term in discussing (dis)ability in black women’s speculative fiction and more.

Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction – Dr. Sami Schalk

Neurodiversity, simply put, is the diversity among human minds. For 15 years or so after the term was coined, it was common for people to speak of neurodiversity as ‘‘diversity among brains.’’ There still are plenty of people who talk about it that way. I think this is a mistake; it’’s an overly reductionist and essentialist definition that’s decades behind present-day understandings of how human bodyminds work.

Mind is an embodied phenomenon. The mind is encoded in the brain as ever-changing webs of neural connectivity. The brain is part of the body, interconnected with the rest of the body by a vast network of nerves. The activity of the mind and body creates changes in the brain; changes in the brain affect both mind and embodiment. Mind, brain, and embodiment are intricately entwined in a single complex system. We’re not minds riding around in bodies, we’re bodyminds.

A lot of people hear neuro and they think, brain. But the prefix neuro doesn’t mean brain, it means nerve. The neuro in neurodiversity is most usefully understood as a convenient shorthand for the functionality of the whole bodymind and the way the nervous system weaves together cognition and embodiment. So neurodiversity refers to the diversity among minds, or among bodyminds.

In terms of scholarship, discourse, and praxis, there are two basic ways to approach the biopsychosocial phenomenon of neurodiversity. Sometime around 2010, I started referring to these two approaches as the pathology paradigm and the neurodiversity paradigm.

Toward a Neuroqueer Future: An Interview with Nick Walker | Autism in Adulthood
rainbow body mind nervous system

Mind is an embodied phenomenon. The activity and development of the mind has a physical component in the form of electrochemical activity in the brain; the mind is encoded in the brain as ever-changing webs of neural connectivity. Changes in the brain create changes in the mind, and changes in the mind—new experiences, new mental activity—create changes in the brain. The brain, meanwhile, is not separate from the rest of the body; the body is a system of which the brain is one part, intricately interconnected with the rest by a vast network of nerves and blood vessels. The brain directs bodily activity and at the same time is continually affected and shaped by bodily activity and experience.

Neuroqueer Heresies: Notes on the Neurodiversity Paradigm, Autistic Empowerment, and Postnormal Possibilities

Mind is inextricably entwined with brain, and brain with body; thus, mind is inextricably entwined with body in a single complex system and in a continuous dance of mutual shaping. We’re not minds riding around in vehicles of flesh and bone; we’re bodyminds, bodies that think and perceive. Experience, awareness, sense of self, psychological development, and capacities for feeling, knowing, cognition, connection, and action are all entwined with—and shape, and are shaped by—habits of bodily usage, including habits of movement, posture, breath, contact, consumption, tension and relaxation, gaze, gesture, and expression.

If mind is an embodied phenomenon, it follows that the diversity of minds must also be a diversity of embodiments. Variations in neurocognitive functioning are entwined with variations in embodiment; autism, for example, involves distinctive modes of physicality and sensorimotor experience that are intimately connected with autistic modes of cognition. So when I say that neurodiversity is the diversity among minds, I’m really saying that it’s the diversity among bodyminds. It used to be commonplace for people to speak of neurodiversity as diversity among brains, and there are still people who speak about it that way. I think this is a mistake, an overly reductionist and essentialist definition that’s decades behind present-day understandings of how human bodyminds work. The persistence of this reductionist interpretation of neurodiversity is no doubt at least partly due to the fact that when most people see the prefix neuro-, they translate it as brain. But neuro- doesn’t mean brain, it means nerve. In my view, the neuro- in neurodiversity is most usefully understood as referring not just to the brain but to the entire nervous system—and, by extension, to the full complexity of human cognition and the central role the nervous system plays in the embodied dance of consciousness.

Neuroqueer Heresies: Notes on the Neurodiversity Paradigm, Autistic Empowerment, and Postnormal Possibilities
rainbow colored nerves

Bodymind is a term I picked up several years ago while reading in trauma studies (see Rothschild 2000). According to this approach, because mental and physical processes not only affect each other but also give rise to each other—that is, because they tend to act as one, even though they are conventionally understood as two—it makes more sense to refer to them together, in a single term.2 I started using body-mind freely, mostly because I was tired of saying body-and-mind all the time, and unhappy about the implicit division created by the coordinating conjunction. However, I realized eventually that I was using the term more as a placeholder than as a true neologism that carried meaning. In a sense, I said bodymind every time I wanted to mark the fact that I believe mental disability matters, that it is an important cate- gory of analysis. But I hadn’t really moved anywhere with the problem that body and mind tend to be treated as rhetorically distinct; my use of bodymind was simply a marker.

The Bodymind Problem and the Possibilities of Pain 
But I need to know
I don’t need to be shown
I've gotta see it for myself
I've gotta learn it on my own
I need to know if I am flesh & bone
And am I still growing or full grown?
Am I still growing, or full grown?
Oh, ooh, yeah

Flesh & Bone by Sammy Rae & the Friends

rainbow body mind nervous system

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Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic retired technologist turned wannabe-sociologist. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they