Anthropology Seminar | Breath hold diving as a developmental systems case study for embodied culture | Greg Downey
Thursday 27 May, 3-5pm Room 441 and via Zoom*
Free divers learn to hold their breath for up to eight minutes or even more. Developmental systems analyses of stages in the skill’s acquisition provide examples of different types of bodily transformation, in which divers make use of resources internal and external to the nervous system. As divers maintain breath holds past the ‘breakpoint,’ through the ‘struggle’ phase, and into more severe hypoxia, skill acquisition requires social, practical, perceptual, and neurological effects. The diver becomes an ‘extended’ cognitive-behavioural assemblage in order to work changes on her or his body and perceptions. This neuroanthropological case study provides a detailed example of how biology and culture are mutually implicated in the behavioural-developmental spiral of bodily enculturation and transformation. Some concepts from systems theory have re-entered contemporary discussions in anthropology, but often in an impressionistic or metaphoric fashion. Psychological anthropology, especially on a developmental time frame, can allow a more rigorous application of systems thinking, including on person-centred and interactive scales, to such central anthropological questions as embodiment, sensory variation, and emotion.
About the Speaker
Greg Downey is Professor of Anthropology in the Macquarie School of Social Sciences at Macquarie University. He is author of Learning Capoeira: Lessons in Cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Art (Oxford, 2005) and editor with Daniel Lende of The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology (MIT Press, 2012). His principal research interests are in sports, dance, the senses, and skill acquisition, where he tries to bring together research from anthropology and the brain sciences with evolutionary theory, neuropsychology, and sports science. Greg is currently the Editor of Ethos, the journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology.
*Zoom Link: https://uni-sydney.zoom.us/j/81963268265
Image supplied: https://unsplash.com/photos/yxFbkyNhF-c