The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Alex Rego '24 RGLP Reflection - Cultural Embodiment: Culture as a Fusion of Mind and Body

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Separation of mind and body is a hallmark of Western culture(s). As a product of a Czech-American household, my own interest in intercultural studies has mimicked this divide. Epistemology has for all my life been relegated to the brain, to intellect. I have thus always interpreted intercultural knowledge, intercultural communication, and intercultural conflict as being purely mental phenomena. Developing intercultural intuition, however, is far more comprehensive. Intercultural intuition is visceral, it is felt. All interactions are cultural, and thus all include a bodily component as culture extends far beyond the brain.

Cultural embodiment has been the topic most salient for me during my time in this program. I noticed, for example, both the discomfort and empowerment I felt during our capoeira session (capoeira is a Brazilian martial art). Not only did these emotions present themselves mentally, but I felt them physically. I would argue that we experience the most growth at this intersection of mind and body; further, we do justice to culture and its members in embracing this fusion. In the true nature of the pervasiveness of culture, I credit my deep hesitation throughout this session to Western separation of mind and body. I am eager to explore the intrexicable relationship between the two, and I am happy that this takeaway came about in the context of an unfamiliar culture.

Our session with Dr. Yazdanpanah highlighted some important practices through which we can engage with culture both intellectually and physically: food, music, and mindfulness (e.g., yoga, meditation), to name a few. Our intercultural intuition can be indefinitely deepened by integrating cultural embodiment into our interactions. As a member of Western culture, I can only imagine the potential for growth that lies in emphasizing the role of the body in lived experience. Culture is indeed intended to be felt, and I envision much of my future with intercultural studies (and indeed global leadership) involving the fusion of head and heart.

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