Bodily Schemata and Sartre's I and Me: Reflection and Awareness in Movement


  • Jodie McNeilly Monash University



phenomenology, dance, digital performance and embodiment


Philosophers have faced the problem of self or inner awareness since the self, itself, became something to be known and/or understood. Once dancers ‘let go of the mirror’ (Emily Claid 2006) they too began to face the problem and limits to bodily awareness, developing specific reflective practices to obtain access to their inner bodily selves. But for the phenomenologist, reflection requires an active process of perception, which problematises our grasping of the so-called hidden, organising structures of movement that are unable to be perceived (bodily schemata). For the dancer, then, how is it possible to access and have a deeper understanding of these nonconscious bodily structures? What are the limits to inner bodily awareness?

In this article, I draw upon Jean-Paul Sartre’s challenge to Edmund Husserl’s pure ego with his notion of object transcendence in his essay of 1937, Transcendence of The Ego: An existentialist theory of consciousness. I do this as a possible means for understanding bodily schemata and its expression through interactive dance technologies. Using examples from dance, I suggest how bodily schemata can be accounted for if our attention is not directed towards an inner sensing of the body, but towards a site of interaction where objects or materials extend or supraextend our bodies in the form of clothing, costume and digital representations, and where the dancer becomes audience to these distally extended bodily reflections.

Author Biography

Jodie McNeilly, Monash University

Jodie McNeilly, PhD, is a Lecturer in the Centre for Theatre and Performance, Monash University. She is an independent choreographer and dance dramaturg based in Sydney, and publishes on dance, phenomenology and digital technologies. She is currently completing a second PhD in philosophy on the work of Edmund Husserl and religious belief. 


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How to Cite

McNeilly, J. (2016). Bodily Schemata and Sartre’s <em>I and Me</em>: Reflection and Awareness in Movement. Performance Philosophy, 2(1), 83–98.