The power of play: embodied cognition and re-imagining obstacles in parkour

Asha Ross

PhD student, Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne

Abstract

Be strong to be useful. This is the philosophy of parkour, a practice that emphasizes strength of mind and body, and challenges the participant to re-imagine their perception of their environment. Parkour is an ideal vehicle through which to explore theories of embodied and situated cognition, as it promotes functional strength and mobility as well as spatial- and self-awareness with a strong philosophical undercurrent.

The theoretical framework for this project also incorporates flow, liminality and communitas, the body, and structure and agency. It will investigate not only the theoretical platforms of embodied cognition, but the application of those theories into physical practice. It will be an examination of the relationship between the forces at work within the human condition (self, body, environment, action) to better integrate concerns with the structuring conditions of social life with the decisive activity of individuals operating with them. The study of embodiment seeks to close the fissure that exists between social theory and physical practice, to better understand the relationship between social conditions, cultural practices, philosophical inquiry, bodily activity, and the built environment.

A comparative analysis of different communities is an important aspect of this project. Fieldwork will be conducted in Australia, Japan, and Scotland over twelve months. This action research project will utilize qualitative ethnographic research techniques along with the principles of participatory action research.