Silent Language : from voice to the moving body

Suarez Gomez, Ainhoa (2021) Silent Language : from voice to the moving body. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis argues that our concept of language has been primarily determined by a vocal paradigm that conceives the speech uttered by the voice as the suitable medium to apprehend the real. This tendency is displaced by reflecting on language from the standpoint of movement, more specifically from the body’s expressive kin(aesth)etic dynamics. The shift from the vocal to the motor signifying paradigm is carried out in three stages. First, framed within Jacques Derrida’s philosophy, I review the critique of the phonocentric understanding of language that defines it as speech, and relates the phonē with the production of meaning, the grounding of rationality and the core of human identity. For Derrida, this idea of language reveals a phono-logo-centric model of thought driven by a metaphysics of presence. Against this tendency, deconstruction offers an alternative model of language thought of as a continuous movement of signifying references. In the second section, I shift from the critique of the language of voice to the proposal of the language of gestures suggested by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. His phenomenology allows me to lay the foundations for a new characterisation of language based on a myriad of sense-giving movements created by the body that go from simple and almost unnoticed gestures like perception, to more complex motor patterns like the painter’s brushstrokes. In this section I propose the concept of kin(aesth)etic logos, a type of silent (aphonic or non-vocal) rationality based on the body’s moving and expressive powers. The last part of the thesis focuses on dance as a way to integrate the findings of the deconstructive critique of the voice and the phenomenological gestural theory. The central argument of this section is that dance provides a stage to deepen the problematisation of the links between the body, expression, movement and language in a way that philosophy is incapable of doing by itself. The closing remarks discuss the concept of vulnerability understood here as the capacity to move and be moved by kin(aesth)etic dynamics.

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