Sculpted Words

An exercise I have borrowed from Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed (1985, 1992) is the idea of sculpting words. I first introduced it spontaneously when students in a practice class were unsure to what extent language use made a difference in the construction of social realities. In a discussion about the question why we speak of “professional distance” but not of “professional closeness” and how this makes a difference in our image of “professionals” and “clients,” I asked students to stand in a circle facing outward. Silently, students sculpted their bodies into positions that—to them—reflected “professional distance.” After all students found their image and got to look at others' sculptures, they repeated the exercise sculpting “professional closeness.” The ensuing discussion was much enriched by people's observations of self and others. The kinesthetic experience of holding a posture or facial expression stimulated perceptions and thoughts, as did the impression oflooking upon others' sculptures. In their ability to reference bodily sensations, students linked emotion to cognition in ways that let them discover new dimensions of the power ofwords.

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