right now, i'm flipping back through The Rainbow of Desire: the Boal Method of Theatre & Therapy by Augusto Boal in order to demonstrate one of the methods of performance praxis that have been used in treatment settings, particularly for addicts and adult children of alcoholics. blahblahblah, etc. generally, i think boal's method is useful, & at the very least it's interesting. but i keep stumbling over a pretty major facet of his writing: the definition of the human body, which is particularly important because he claims that a human being is his or her body (boal 29).
it is sensitive
it is emotive
it is rational
it has sex
it can move (29).
by "sensitive," boal explains on the next page that he is referring to the possession of the five senses. this is, of course, making the very large assumption that everyone experiences the five senses. obviously, that isn't quite the case, as the blind and deaf clearly do not access all five senses. i will give him that he doesn't necessarily make any all or nothing claims, here, but it's still a tricky one.
"emotive" is a tricky one. i'd like to give him this, but i am really just not sure about it. especially as emotions are chemical reactions in the brain, there are conditions which prohibit the display of, or even the experiencing of, emotion. & if we extend that, to acknowledge that emotions are not just brain chemicals, but also social constructions, i have to wonder what counts as "emotive." is the sociopath emotive?
bodies are rational?! in who's universe? rationality & irrationality exist simultaneously in all bodies; one simply cannot exist without the other. i am inclined to say that this is more a double articulation. bodies both are & are not messy.
ah, sex. it seems ubiquitous, no? yet many people choose to abstain from sexual behaviors for a number of reasons. aside from any jokes about the humanity of priests, they vow not to indulge the sins of the flesh, as it were, & there are a good number of people who identify as asexual who choose not to participate in sexual behaviors. not to mention those who are too socially awkward or socially ostracized to find partners.
as for moving, well, that seems fairly obvious. yet, that discounts people in comas, catatonics, & certain degrees of paralysis. besides which, what counts as movement?
ableism. i might not be quite so sensitive to this fact if not for my years of experience working for and with folks with disabilities, in addition to family members with disabilities. i can't help but think here of my cousin chase, pictured to the right. she was born with cerebral palsy, is almost entirely blind, & has the cognitive level of about 18months. according to the dictates of boal's definition of a body, & therefore of a human being, my cousin chase is not human. somehow, that just doesn't sit right with me.
i am wary of any discourse that participates in normalizing regimes of power. it certainly puts to question who boal intends his methodologies to serve.
at some level, however, i know i just need to get over it to be able to glean what is useful from his theory and methodology. but i very much believe that it is important for academics to identify the shortcomings of the theory they use, write about, or publish. perhaps this is especially important in the case of figures like boal, who we have a tendency to elevate in our imaginations. he is, after all, just a human being.
Boal, Augusto. The Rainbow of Desire: the Boal Method of Theatre and Therapy. Trans. Adrian Jackson. London: Routledge, 1995. Print.