Impaired embodiment and intersubjectivity

Research paper by Jonathan Cole

Indexed on: 04 Feb '09Published on: 04 Feb '09Published in: Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences


This paper considers the importance of the body for self-esteem, communication, and emotional expression and experience, through the reflections of those who live with various neurological impairments of movement and sensation; sensory deafferentation, spinal cord injury and Möbius Syndrome (the congenital absence of facial expression). People with severe sensory loss, who require conscious attention and visual feedback for movement, describe the imperative to use the same strategies to reacquire gesture, to appear normal and have embodied expression. Those paralysed after spinal cord injury struggle to have others see them as people rather than as people in wheelchairs and have been active in the disability movement, distinguishing between their medical impairment and the social induced disability others project onto them. Lastly those with Möbius reveal the importance of the face for emotional expression and communication and indeed for emotional experience itself. All these examples explore the crucial role of the body as agent for social and personal expression and self-esteem.